Company's fourth quarter net revenue fell 7.8%

HOLLYWOOD — Revenues were down but TV audiences were up for Univision Communications, which posted a 2008 fourth-quarter net loss of $2.25 billion on Monday.

Net loss is attributed to, among other things, pretax charges for goodwill and asset impairments of $1.6 billion, an investment loss of $20.3 million, and restructuring and related charges of $30 million.

Company’s fourth-quarter net revenue fell 7.8% to $502.1 million year on year, continuing a downward trend that began in the second quarter.

For the year ended Dec. 31, net revenue dipped 2.5% to just over $2 billion compared with 2007.

“Our fourth-quarter results reflect an operating environment that was among the most difficult we have seen across most industries,” Univision CEO Joe Uva said. “Nevertheless, we continued to meet our key near-term goals of maintaining liquidity to operate our business, successfully negotiating favorable retransmission agreements and aggressively managing costs,” he continued.

Univision was especially hit by the crisis in the auto sector, with ad revs dropping 40% while seeing slight increases in other sectors such as retail, telco and consumer packages in the fourth quarter.

Company, acquired by a consortium of investors led by media baron Haim Saban in 2006, paid its second lien of $385 million on its outstanding debt of $9.9 billion on Monday, according to CFO Andrew Hobson in an investors conference call following the announcement.

In February, company pinkslipped 300 employees, roughly 6% of its workforce.

The silver lining lies in Univision’s audience figures, where it can claim to be the only major broadcast network to grow its adults 18-49 aud in primetime during the quarter.

“The major English-language networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW — saw their average audiences decline 11%,” said Univision prexy and chief operating officer Ray Rodriguez at the conference call. “Univision’s primetime 18-49 demo audience grew 4%, while the English-language networks saw a 3% decline,” he added.

Univision claims its flagship Los Angeles station, KMEX, beat all other English- and Spanish-language stations in the country to rank No. 1 among adults 18-49 during primetime, total day, early local news and late local news for the year.

During the fourth quarter, Univision ranked as the No. 5 broadcast network in the country among adults 18-49, adults 18-34 and total viewers 2+.

For the full year, Univision was the No. 4 network in primetime, attracting more adults 18-34 than CBS, as measured by Nielsen’s NTI.

Univision is expecting incremental revenues worth $100 million from its newly negotiated multi-year retransmission rights deals with DirecTV, Comcast, AT&T’s U-verse IPTV system and Insight Communications among others, according to Rodriguez.

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