Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications announced a drop in first quarter earnings and revenue as the company grapples with restructuring and severance costs.
Total revenue was down 1.2% to $684.2 million from $692.6 million compared to the first quarter of the prior year. Profit was down 10.2% to $47.4 million versus $58.1 million in the same time frame in 2017.
“Even with a leading portfolio of Spanish-language linear assets, a growing digital portfolio and a strong and time-tested relationship with our audience, we recognize that accelerating changes at Univision now is as important as ever given the rapid evolution in the media sector,” said Univision president-CEO Randy Falco, who has announced his intention to resign by the end of the year despite having renewed his contract to Jan. 31, 2020 just six months ago.
Since then, Univision has cut jobs and given up on an IPO, citing unfavorable market conditions. An IPO would have helped the company to further draw down its debt of some $8 billion and allow its investors, led by mogul Haim Saban, to cash out. The company reduced its debt by $76.2 million this first quarter.
In an earnings call led by Falco and newly promoted CFO Peter Lori, Falco stressed “two key pillars to Univision’s accelerated transformation strategy”: Firstly, cost management, especially in areas not directly impacting Univision’s audience and secondly, operational support, encompassing content, platforms and selling capabilities.
Falco noted that Univision’s broadcast and cable networks remained No. 1 in Spanish-language TV in most measures with a solid lead over its nearest rival, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo.
For the first time, Televisa will also be complementing its scripted primetime programming lineup with three reality shows as part of its programming license agreement with Univision, effective this year. This includes kids competition show “Little Giants.” The show’s recent finale boosted Univision’s Sunday ratings average by 17%, year over year.
Univision expects its bottom line to be impacted by the 16% increase expenditures on its Televisa licensing agreement as well as the loss of World Cup soccer rights, which are moving to Telemundo for the first time.
Univision declined to comment on speculation that Televisa would eventually buy Univision given the FCC’s newly relaxed regulations regarding foreign media ownership.