Luis Fernandez Exits Univision

Exec shuffle under way with Luis Fernandez's departure

Univision is losing another top exec with the departure of Luis Fernandez, who has served as prexy of entertainment and Univision Studios since 2009.

Fernandez is still studying his options but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he joined his former Univision colleagues Joe Uva and Cesar Conde at NBCU, the parent company of No. 2 U.S. Hispanic network, Telemundo.

Luis Perez, senior VP of business operations at Univision Networks, quietly ankled two weeks ago.

Univision will confirm Fernandez’s departure along with a management restructure in an internal memo outlining the new programming structure that calls for Univision Studios VP Vanessa Pombo and special events senior VP Cisco Suarez to report to Alberto Ciurana, prexy of programming and content, a former Televisa exec.

Under this structure, three programming divisions report to Univision prexy and CEO Randy Falco. Isaac Lee heads news as president of news and CEO of the nascent Fusion cabler, while Juan Carlos Rodriguez heads sports. Ciurana heads entertainment.

A looming IPO could be a factor behind this executive shuffle from Univision. Univision is said to be in talks with banks about an initial public offering, which may come in the second half of 2014. Univision was taken private by a group of equity investors comprising Haim Saban’s Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners for $13.7 billion, including an assumption of $1.4 billion in debt, in 2007.

Univision is in the midst of a growth spurt as it launches Fusion, an ambitious joint venture with ABC News on a English-lingo news and lifestyle channel aimed at millennial Hispanics, later this month. Company has also expanded its reach in cable with the launch of  dedicated sports and novella channels and the revamp of is sibling broadcast network TeleFutura as UniMas, aimed at younger viewers.

At the same time, Univision is facing tougher competition from Telemundo, which has deeper pockets behind it as NBCU has vowed to beef up its presence in Hispanic media given the growth curve of the population. Ratings on the main Univision network have been flat, albeit strong enough to notch historic victories over the Big Four networks this year, while Telemundo is rising in primetime with increased investment in novelas and primetime fare. Univision also lost the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup Spanish-language broadcast rights in the U.S. to Telemundo, after having carried the World Cup matches since 1978.

Fernandez joined Univision with the 2009 launch of Univision Studios in the company’s bid to increase inhouse production and ease its dependence on main programming supplier, Televisa. Under his leadership, Univision Studios created telenovela hit “Eva Luna” with Venezuela’s Venevision and produced a string of other hits, including dance competish “Mira quien baila” (Look Who’s Dancing) and talk show “Sal y Pimienta.”

A 30-plus year TV industry vet, Fernandez hailed from Spain’s leading broadcaster RTVE. Previously, he served as managing director of Promofilm U.S., a production shingle with offices in Miami and Los Angeles. He also served as general manager of Plural Ent., the TV and film production arm of Grupo Prisa, based in the U.S. Fernandez also executive produced various feature films, among them Televisa co-production “Un Dia sin Mexicanos” (A Day Wthout a Mexican) by Sergio Arau.

Former Univision CEO Uva departed in 2011 and was named NBCU chairman of Hispanic enterprises and content this year. Former Univision Networks prexy Cesar Conde jumped to an exec VP position at NBCU last month.

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