Spanish-language media giant Univision, which earlier this year agreed to sell a majority stake to an investment group led by former Viacom CFO Wade Davis, reported first-quarter net profit of $11.7 million compared to $36.9 million for the same period ending March 31 last year.
In a conference call with investors on Friday, CEO Vince Sadusky pointed out that company revenue rose 8% to $660.4 million from $611.9 million despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Prior to the crisis, we achieved continued ratings momentum in the important February sweeps period, where we not only expanded our share lead over competitors but with an 18% portfolio ratings growth we also ranked as the fastest growing portfolio of networks in the country, regardless of language,” said Sadusky. “This momentum has continued through the crisis driven by our strong news and entertainment content.”
Sadusky said that Univision continued to work towards a smooth transition to the new majority stakeholders, Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight LLC, and that he expected the deal to close “at some point this year.”
Since April, Univision has begun to initiate cost-cutting measures amounting to $125 million, which includes company-wide layoffs and furloughs – possibly longer for people working in the sports division – as well as executive pay cuts and a pause in 401K matching contributions.
With the suspension of live Sports events and lower demand from advertisers, Univision expects losses to mount in the second quarter. The now cancelled Gold Cup soccer tourney and other recurring soccer events made up approximately 20% of Univision’s total media network ad revenues, said CFO Peter H. Lori on the earnings conference call.
On a positive note, operating expenses related to programming decreased $25.2 million, or 17%, to $124.3 million from $149.5 million for the same prior period,” per Univision’s 1st Q financials report.
The dip was driven by a drop in sports programming costs of $14.9 million due to the impact of COVID-19 “which led to suspension of sporting events, such as soccer matches, and other live events for which the company has broadcast,” Univision said.
Addressing concerns about any programming issues going forward, Sadusky pointed out that Univision has a year’s worth of original programming from its main provider, Mexico’s Televisa, and third-party acquisitions “in the can.”