Univision CEO Still ‘On Guard’ About Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Univision Communications Logo

Thanks to the World Cup and digital gains, Univision Communications reported an uptick in growth in the third quarter.

Third quarterly net revenue for the Spanish-language media conglom grew 5.2% to $728.9 million, compared to $692.7 million in the same frame last year, spurred by gains in TV and digital, the company said Wednesday. The performance of the radio division, however, continued to slide.

Per Nielsen, Univision’s flagship broadcast held the No. 3 spot among primetime 18-34 auds and remained fifth in the ranking of broadcast primetime 18-49 adult auds in the third quarter.

FIFA World Cup incremental ad revenue during the third quarter and nine months ended Sept. 30 were estimated at $54.1 million and $174.2 million, respectively. However, operating expenses associated with the World Cup were $46.6 million and $136.8 million for the same periods. Given that Univision expected to break even, a margin of profit is encouraging.

NBCUniversal’s Telemundo takes over the exclusive Spanish-language broadcast rights to the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Univision retains broadcast rights to the Copa Oro soccer tourney, which earned net advertising revs of $42.4 million in the quarter and incurred $18.5 million in operating expenses.

Univision is lowering its expectations for mid term election political advertising, given the dearth of competitive races in “high-density Hispanic markets,” CFO Andy Hobson said Wednesday on an earnings conference call. He expects political ad revenue to fall $10 million below the original estimate.

Fourth-quarter growth is expected amid recent developments that include Comcast’s long-term agreement to distribute Univision Deportes sports cablers to its XFinity TV customers who subscribe to its Digital Preferred or XFinity Latino service. That expanded distribution deal came on the heels of Univision going public with its concerns about Comcast’s use of its market power in relation to its pending merger with Time Warner Cable.

“I remain on guard,” said CEO Randy Falco about the $45 billion mega-merger.

Univision Digital continues to see dramatic growth, with net revenue rising 63.3% to $36.1 million compared to $22.1 million in 2013. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, net revenue increased 85.5% to $107.6 million compared to $58.0 million in 2013. Univision’s UVideos has expanded its content offering to include more scripted series and reality shows as well as provide digital-only extensions of some its top shows.

In April, Univision launched over-the-top network the Flama, targeted at Latinos aged 15-30. Falco seemed encouraged by the prospects of online-only distribution so far.

“We’re looking at over-the-top in an opportunistic way; it’s another distribution platform that we have to look at very seriously,” Falco said.

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