Univision beefs up homegrown product

Spanish-language World Wrestling Fed. leads pack of new shows

Hoping to expand its dominant 85% primetime share in Hispanic homes even further, Univision’s 1998-99 season will feature a Spanish-language version of the World Wrestling Federation and a host of other new programs.

The domestic Spanish-language network unveiled its new programming lineup at its second annual upfront presentation under a circus tent just outside Tavern on the Green here Thursday.

In addition to plugging its new and returning shows, Ray Rodriguez, Univision president, also announced that the network has signed Mexican-American boxing champion Oscar de la Hoya as Univision’s “prime communicator to the Hispanic community.” De la Hoya will appear in Univision programming, promotions and public service campaigns.

While Univision’s viewership figures and financial results have been excellent this year, the network will likely face increased competition from Telemundo, which is being acquired by Sony and Liberty Media Corp. The deal is still awaiting FCC approval, but media buyers said they expect the new owners to make also-ran Telemundo more attractive to advertisers and viewers.

“If they can come across with anything of value, they will more certainly get more money this upfront,” said one major buyer of Hispanic media in regard to Univision.

Univision’s new lineup seems designed as a preemptive strike to stave off a stronger Telemundo. Univision has been criticized in the past for relying too much on Mexican programming from partner Televisa and not producing enough programming specifically for the United States and the new lineup contains more original programming.

Univision also announced that it cut a deal with Million Dollar Video Corp., one of the major suppliers of Spanish-language theatrical films, for the network to debut Spanish-language hit movies in a window prior to pay-per-view and pay cable.

Other programming highlights include Univison acquiring the Spanish-language rights to the 1999 Pan-American Games, several new series of primetime novellas produced in a new partnership by Televisa and Univision and, from the producers of the monster hit “Sabado Gigante,” a Sunday night program called “Siero de la Estrellas.”

According to Univision stats, Hispanic buying power in the U.S. will grow from $380 billion in 1998 to $960 billion in 2010. In 2005, Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority in the U.S. at 13% of the population, compared to 12% for blacks.