Univision Communications CEO Discusses Upfront Outlook, Aereo

4:45 AM PST 04/23/2013 by Georg Szalai
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Univision

UPDATED: The company swung to a first-quarter profit, as revenue rose 6.4 percent with gains across the Spanish-language media giant's TV, radio and digital units.

Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications on Tuesday reported improved first-quarter financials amid revenue growth in its TV, radio and digital units.

On a conference call, CEO Randy Falco also discussed broadcasters' continuing litigation with digital TV streaming service Aereo and the company's possible options.

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Asked by an analyst about Univision chairman Haim Saban's recent comments on the issue and how it could be forced to go pay-only, Falco said: "In fairness to Haim, he never said that we would move our signal to cable. What he said was that in our judgment, like all broadcasters, we think Aereo is a clear case of piracy that will ultimately be settled in the courts. But until it is settled in the courts, we have to review all of our options."

One of those is a possible move of broadcast signals to cable as first mentioned by News Corp. president Chase Carey, he said. Concluded Falco: "We trust in the courts. It's very clear to us that it is piracy. We think it will be vindicated in the courts."

He also discussed the upcoming upfront advertising selling season. "We are optimistic about a share shift" from English-language networks, Falco said, highlighting healthy current ad trends.

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He said that Univision would focus on its multi-platform reach for ads focus in upfront: "one for all"

The company swung to a first-quarter profit of $9 million after a year-ago loss of $14.1 million. The latest figure included $2.5 million in impairment charges, compared with $9 million in the year-ago period. Univision also recorded lower restructuring charges and operating expenses in the latest quarter.

Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization, another profitability metric, rose 22 percent to $224.2 million. Quarterly revenue increased 6.4 percent to $562 million.

"Our strong revenue growth and operating leverage are evidence that we are seeing success, while still being disciplined, in distinguishing Univision as an innovative and multi-platform media company with the brand, people and tools to win with audiences and marketers," said Falco. "Our strategy and competitive positioning were validated when the Univision Network made history in the February sweeps by drawing a larger primetime audience than NBC among adults 18-49 and adults 18-34."

Falco added that during the opening quarter of 2013, Univision also struck a retransmission deal with satellite TV giant DirecTV." We are confident that these important milestones are building significant positive momentum leading to what we anticipate will be a successful upfront in May," he concluded.

The Univision network increased its primetime audience by four percent among adults 18-49 and by five percent among all viewers in the first quarter, the company highlighted.

"Univision out-delivered one or more of the English-language broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- in primetime on virtually every night (92 percent of the time) among adults 18-34 and on 82 percent of nights among adults 18-49 during the first quarter," the company said.

The former TeleFutura network, which the company re-launched as UniMas early this year, recorded year-over-year audience gains in key day parts demos early this year. Its total viewers rose three percent for the total day, with bigger gain for certain day parts, including a 44 percent jump in Monday-Saturday viewership in the 7-8 p.m. time slot.

Management on Tuesday raised its 2013 expense guidance by about $10 million, citing the cost of acquiring more sports rights, added soccer games and production support for ad commitments.

Second-quarter TV ad revenue is trending up in the mid- to high-single digit percentage range, the company said. Radio ads are seeing a low single digit upwards trend. Overall ad revenue is pacing up in the high single digits.

Falco also touted continued digital growth. In the first quarter, Univision recorded 150 million video impressions online and on mobile platforms, an increase of 150 percent over the year-ago period.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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