Executive Suite: Joe Uva
The Univision CEO on the possibility of his network being No. 1 in primetime — all the time
At the end of the summer, Univision beat all other broadcast networks for the week in primetime in the adults 18-49 demographic. Univision Communications CEO Joe Uva, a second-
generation Italian-American running the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, discusses his company’s growth opportunities and competition.
How good is your Spanish now, and is it a requirement that your employees speak the language?
(Laughs.) It’s improving. I can understand what I read. I can understand more than half of what I hear. And I am working with my Rosetta Stone to improve my speaking. We are focused on attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry, and we are fortunate to be able to attract professionals with diverse backgrounds, many who are bilingual and bicultural.
Was that ratings win a fluke or a sign of things
It got the attention of a lot of people and changed the conversation for us. For the first time, English-language broadcast networks took notice. We don’t believe it was a fluke when you look at the sheer growth in the U.S. Hispanic population and how our programming continues to deliver increases in audiences, while English-language broadcast networks continue to see their audience erode. Within three to five years, we have the very real potential to become the No. 1-ranked network in this country in primetime against the 18-to-49 demographic on a consistent basis.
Do agents and other “mainstream” media types pitch you more now?
I would argue that we are part of the mainstream, competing against our English-language counterparts in every platform. That is why we are seeing increased interest from companies across the media landscape interested in Spanish-language media.
Other media companies also have looked to target Hispanics. Does that concern you?
A portion of the Hispanic population in this country does consume English-language media. However, even English-dominant people continue to seek out high-quality Spanish-language programming, especially the Univision network. And 67 percent of the Univision audience in primetime is unduplicated. That means that two-thirds of Hispanics watching Univision in primetime are not watching anything else.
Comcast soon will own NBC Universal, which has your competitor, Telemundo.
Any concerns that Telemundo will be a
Comcast is a very well-managed, very well-run organization. We know that they will more aggressively manage the assets of NBC Universal than General Electric did. Comcast is a very important customer of ours as well. However, given our current position and ranking, combined with the recent Televisa agreement [which makes the Mexican broadcaster a Univision investor again in return for expanded and extended programming rights], we have a unique advantage.
You made peace with longtime rival Televisa. Why was that important?
The new Televisa agreement is really a game-changer for Univision. When the deal closes, we will have an infusion of $1.2 billion of capital, which we will use to pay down some of our debt. And we will have expanded and extended access to Televisa’s content. Those extended rights will unlock the potential of this company in a way it hasn’t been unlocked before. Because, in addition to expanded television rights, we will also have unrestricted and unlimited rights to the Televisa TV library and audiovisual content — with limited exceptions — on new-media platforms including online, mobile and video-on-demand. And with 70 percent of U.S. Hispanics being Mexican-American, there is an appetite for all things Televisa.
What is your top-rated show and why?
Our No. 1 primetime show is Soy tu Duena (Woman of Steel), a novela that consistently ranks among the top 10 primetime programs among all adults 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49, not just Hispanics.
One of your L.A. radio stations landed an in-studio interview with President Obama ahead of the midterm elections. How do you go about covering politics, immigration and other key topics?
One of the reasons why Univision enjoys such loyalty among its audience is because we are a true lifeline for them in terms of news and information in addition to entertaining them. We want to inform and empower the Hispanic community and make sure they have the information they need to succeed in America and contribute to society. This is such an important focus for us that we invest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public- and community-service initiatives. The issues we cover include education, the economy and immigration. Due to recent laws and issues around immigration, we have provided extensive coverage on this issue; for example, earlier this year, we hosted an immigration debate in primetime. We also made a strategic decision in 2007 to enhance our political coverage by launching our Sunday public-affairs show, Al Punto (To the Point).
Other than your own shows, what do
I enjoy watching college football on ESPN.
WHO'S IN UVA'S INNER CIRCLE
The former ad man pals around with an impressive list of industry insiders
President, CNN Worldwide
The two met long ago at Turner/CNN and remain close to this day. Says Walton: “Joe and I worked together in the ’80s and have remained friends ever since. We share ideas, strategy and a lot of laughs. We had dinner together Monday night to celebrate his receiving the NIAF One America Award. I know his wife and kids, and he obviously knows mine: Joe introduced me to my wife [Sarah], for which I will always be thankful. Joe is what we all want from our friends: He’s smart, funny, trustworthy and kind.” The pair also collaborated on a 2008 Democratic presidential primary debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the University of Texas.
CEO, Discovery Communications
The two got to know each other through their work on TiVo’s board. Uva calls Zaslav a great strategic thinker and motivator. They sometimes discuss the challenges and opportunities for media companies in a fast-changing market.
CEO, Alpha Media Group (Maxim)
They met working together at McCann Erickson in 1979. “I consider him family,” Uva says. They have seen each other’s kids grow up and tend to talk about the business, their families and sports.
Executive vp, Cartoon Network ad sales and marketing
They met at Turner, and both are avid New York Giants fans. They discuss industry trends, the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers. Uva says O’Hara is one of the industry’s top sales executives.
Executive vp and COO, CNN advertising sales and marketing
D’Alba remembers getting his first job after college thanks to Uva, who earned his respect by being smart, deliberate and strategic. “I realized quickly that you don’t want to go into Joe’s office and not be prepared and know exactly what you are talking about,” he says. If Uva has his choice of meeting spot, D’Alba says a great Italian restaurant is the likely choice.
President of advertising sales, Discovery Communications
The two used to compete when Uva was at Turner and Abruzzese at CBS. Then, when Uva ran Omnicom ad firm OMD Worldwide, he was Abruzzese’s customer. “Joe has a reputation for really treating his business partners well,” Uva says. “And he has more friends in the business than anyone I know.”