Adversely impacted by its carriage dispute with Dish Network, the loss of World Cup ad revenue to rival Telemundo, lower ratings, and the 2018 rate increase of its agreement with long-time primetime programming supplier Televisa, Univision has reported a 17.3% plunge in revenue to $628.2 million from $759.4 million for its 2018 3rd quarter results ending Sept. 30, 2018, compared to the same period last year.
Total core revenue dipped 8.2% to $648.9 million from $706.7 million in the same time frame. Consolidated ad revenue was down 16.6% to $378 million from $454 million in the prior period.
In an earnings call with investors Wednesday, Univision CEO Vince Sadusky said the Dish blackout was likely to be permanent. “Our talks were ongoing right up to the recent takedown of Univision Deportes Network (UDN),” he said, adding: “At the end of the day, it’s all about economics, but it’s very odd that they’ve been unwilling to recognize the power of the Hispanic consumer and the popularity of Univision programming across news, sports, and entertainment,” he said.
Last August during Dish Networks second quarter earnings call, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen told analysts that the removal of Univision channels for its satellite and Sling TV subscribers was likely to be permanent. More than 60 Univision-owned stations and cable channels, including UniMás and Galavision, were pulled from Dish’s pay-TV platforms on June 30. And just this week, Univision’s popular sports network UDN went dark on Dish.
But the good news is that “Jesus” has saved Univision’s primetime ratings. The faith-based telenovela from Brazil’s Record TV has outperformed Telemundo by 22% every night, topping even general market programs in some key markets including Los Angeles.
The multimillion-dollar epic drama depicting the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, starring Dudu Azevedo (“La Tierra Prometida,” “Moises y Los Diez Mandamientos”) started airing on Univision Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT, on Nov. 5.
The super production follows the success of other sword-and-sandals series broadcast on Univision Networks including “El Rico y Lazaro,” “La Tierra Prometida,” and “Moises y Los Diez Mandamientos.”
During the third quarter, Univision began to divest itself of its English-language digital businesses, including the Gizmodo Media Group, the Onion, and Fusion Digital. “Loss from discontinued operations, net of income taxes for the third quarter 2018 was $96.1 million compared to $8.7 million for the same prior period,” according to a company statement.
“Longer term, our refocused mission is gaining momentum evidenced by Univision being on pace to win the November Sweeps in Spanish language even without carriage on Dish,” said Sadusky. “Our teams are rededicated to the company’s core mission of serving Hispanic America and with many structural and organizational changes now in place, I am optimistic about our strategy going forward,” he added.
Univision has not been immune to major shifts in general audience viewing habits, which has led to a deep erosion of its primetime viewership. Interest in telenovelas from its primetime programming supplier, Mexico’s Televisa, had waned.