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Dish Network Battle, Gizmodo Losses Take Toll on Univision Q4 Earnings

Impacted by its ongoing dispute with Dish Network, increased expenses and impairment losses, U.S. Hispanic media giant Univision reported an 8.9% decline in fourth-quarter total revenue to $688.5 million from $755.5 million in the year prior.

In comparing the full year of 2018 with the previous year, total revenue fell 7.6% to $2,713.8 million from $2,937.3 million. Total core revenue dipped 5.4% to $2,674.2 million from $2,827.3 million.

Last year, the Company began the process of selling its discontinued English-language digital businesses, including the Gizmodo Media Group, The Onion and Fusion Digital. According to Univision, the loss from the Gizmodo group in the quarter was $32.5 million compared to $3.0 million for the year-ago period. The Wall Street Journal reported that Univision has written down the value of those digital assets to $15 million, down from $135 million.

“Univision serves a unique audience,” said Vince Sadusky, CEO of Univision. “Hispanic America is driving population and GDP growth and will continue to do so for decades,” he said, adding: “Our strategic focus on serving this core audience has recently resulted in viewership growth, as from the third to fourth quarter, we saw increases in our primetime ratings in all key demographics at a time when all other major networks experienced declines.”

Sadusky, in his second earnings call since taking over the helm from Randy Falco, cited the “gangbuster ratings” of its “Dancing with the Stars” adaptation, “Mira Quien Baila” which scored highest among the 18-24 demo.

Sadusky stressed that Univision was focusing on reinforcing its core business, and hailed its long-time programming supplier, Mexico’s Televisa, for reinvigorating its programming. Company has also turned to more acquisitions of canned shows and formats, more soccer content, live shows and local news to bolster its programming.

Operating expenses rose due to its newly acquired UEFA soccer rights, more Mexican soccer league matches and a higher Televisa licensing fee. Direct operating expenses jumped 11% to $287.6 million, with selling, general and administrative expenses increasing 11 percent to $176.5 million.

Sadusky concurred with Dish president and CEO Erik Carlson’s comments a day earlier that the contract dispute talks between the two companies remained at a stalemate.

“We continue to have discussions with Dish. It’s clear that not doing a deal for both companies is harmful to both companies. It’s just down to a matter of value,” said Sadusky who observed that subscribers have been migrating to Dish’s rival companies.

“Our other partners that are paying us a fair amount, we have a good relationship with and believe continue to benefit from the migration of Dish viewers,” he said. Dish’s satellite service subs fell below the 10 million mark for the first time in 15 years, which it partly attributed to its Univision and HBO blackouts.

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