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Univision Sees Big Gains in Fourth Quarter

Univision Communications reported robust fourth quarter financials, culminating in a banner year for the U.S. Hispanic media giant.

“Our fourth quarter marked a strong finish to a very positive year for Univision where we achieved the highest revenue and adjusted OIBDA [operating income before depreciation and amortization] in the history of our company. [We] generated nearly $219 million in net income and reduced our net debt by $400 million while still investing approximately $160 million in strategic digital assets,” said Univision President and CEO Randy Falco.

In addition, Univision, which participated in the FCC’s Broadcast Incentive Auction to monetize a portion of its spectrum assets, expects to receive an estimated $376 million in proceeds from the FCC spectrum auction in 2017, which it will use to further draw down its debt.

The Spanish-language media conglomerate, which posted a fourth-quarter net income of $108.0 million compared with a year-ago net income of $8.8 million, has been planning an IPO in recent years.

Univision’s fourth quarter revenue spiked 15 percent to $846.5 million, or 8.5 percent after excluding political/advocacy advertising and content licensing revenue. Its ad revenue rose 7.8 percent to over $541 million while its non-ad revenue, including carriage fees and content licensing, increased 30.6 percent to $305 million.

Despite Telemundo’s ratings gains in recent years, Univision outperformed the NBCU Spanish-language broadcaster by over 33%, said Falco. Its sports channel, Univision Deportes, is the top cable sports network regardless of language, buoyed by its expanded rights of the Liga MX (Mexican League) soccer games.

The conglomerate has also expanded its digital footprint, with its acquisitions of The Onion, Gawker Media and its acquisition of Disney’s interest in Fusion.

“This has expanded our reach across new, young and diverse audiences regardless of ethnicity and language as well as the U.S. Hispanics who we were not previously reaching,” said Falco, who cited an “unduplicated media reach that grew 33% to over 93 million across the full year.”

In an earnings call Thursday morning, Falco addressed the U.S.-centric programming changes afoot at Univision, spurred by the move for Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee to oversee content development both at Univision and its main programming supplier, Mexican TV giant Televisa.

“The United States now will become a primary place for distribution of content, not a secondary place,” Falco said, citing some fourth quarter ratings gains with its new 9 p.m. telenovela “Vino el Amor,” filmed in the U.S. with some English dialogue subtitled in Spanish.

Univision has also been investing in non-Televisa programming, led by its programming pact with Patricio Wills and an upcoming series co-produced with Netflix about notorious drug lord “El Chapo,” who is now incarcerated in the U.S.

“The new structure will enhance Univision’s and Televisa’s ability to serve a combined audience of approximately 175 million viewers in the United States and Mexico, with an aggregate purchasing power of close to $2 trillion dollars,” it was announced in January.
The FCC has allowed for Televisa to own an aggregate equity and voting stake of up to 49 percent in Univision, up from 25%.

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