Spanish-language broadcaster Univision is among the media outlets working to reconnect with advertisers amid the confusion erupting from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter issued Friday ,the network told clients that it intends to prepare a ” video presentation to be streamed once it is reasonable and safe to do so” rather than a traditional physical to start talks in the industry’s annual “upfront” ad sales market. “We will rely on your guidance to inform us when your business is ready to make plans for the coming year and we will make decisions together on when we present our strategy and content,” says the letter, from Steve Mandala, president of ad sales and marketing for the company, which is slated to be majority-controlled by former Viacom finance chief Wade Davis and private-equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners when a deal is completed later this year.
Mandala believes Univision has critical programming elements that will be of interest to Madison Avenue in weeks to come. In an interview, he says organizers of Mexican League Soccer (above, pictured), currently suspended, could bring back play as early as May 25. ”The thought is by that time, live games could be done without fans in the stadium,” says Mandala. “We are working with our sponsors right now to reform plans.” Live sports, he adds, “is a big deal for viewers and for our community, a sign of things returning to normal for our viewers, too.”
And he says Univision will not be plagued by a lack of original programming over the next few quarters, because many of its primetime scripted telenovelas have a long-lead production schedule. “We produce or co-produce 90% of our programming. We are fully set through at least January of 2021,” he says. “We will have original episodes for the entire year. We don’t do any repeats and we don’t intend to going forward, either.”
Univision is one of a handful of media companies making public their Madison Avenue outreach in a chaotic time. Fox Corp. has recently approached senior media buyers to talk to them about the potential for live sports in the third and fourth quarters of 2020, while A+E Networks has discussed various ways its networks can help advertisers attach themselves to relevant social issues.
There seems to be some amount of hope that TV can conduct some sort of “upfront” market in 2020, despite the shutdown of production of new series forced by the pandemic. “My sense is there are some big clients that are ready now, and there are others who are going to take a lot of time to get ready because of this interruption,” Mandala says.