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Univision Communications Fourth-Quarter Financials Improve

Randy Falco
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Univision

UPDATED: CEO Randy Falco says competition in the Spanish-language media space is increasing, but "we are far and away the best at it."

NEW YORK - Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications on Friday reported improved fourth-quarter financials and vowed that it will continue to grow despite increased competition.

The privately-held company, led by CEO Randy Falco and chairman Haim Saban, posted a loss of $355.9 million, compared with a loss of $631.9 million in the year-ago period, which had been  dragged down by $452 million in losses and charges related to a legal settlement with Mexican broadcaster, content supplier and investor Grupo Televisa. Restructuring, severance and related charges rose to $9.3 million in the latest period from $4.9 million in the year-ago period. The company also cited an impairment loss of $12.5 million, compared to $8.6 million in the year-ago period.

Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization, a measure of profitability that focuses more on operations, increased 6.3 percent to $275.7 million. Revenue in the latest quarter rose 6.9 percent to $616.7 million. The company recorded revenue gains in its television and radio business, but not its interactive unit.

"The release of the 2010 U.S. Census results made 2011 a landmark year for Univision and the entire Hispanic media industry," said Falco. "The Census results showed that our core audience, which is already one in six Americans, is expected to grow to one in three Americans in 40 years."

To take advantage of the upside opportunity, "Univision is laying the groundwork for growth, investing in new networks and expanding our digital distribution capabilities to deliver the full value of our exclusive programming partnership with Televisa," he added. "These efforts are enhancing Univision’s audience engagement, as demonstrated by strong ratings and persistent live viewership - Univision finished the fourth quarter with the highest percentage of live viewers in primetime compared to the major broadcast networks."

On a conference call, Univision executives explained the significance of having the highest concentration of live viewers in the key 18-49 demo in primetime. Of Univision's audience in that demo, 94 percent watch live, compared with 79 percent at NBC, 76 percent at  ABC and 75 percent at CBS and Fox, the company said.

Spanish-language media has been in transition as the latest Census has cast a spotlight on the sector, and other media and entertainment companies are eyeing opportunities to take advantage, Falco told analysts. "Now, every media executive wakes up thinking of two great growth opportunities - Hispanic and digital media," he said.

However, Univision has an advantage as it has focused on this space for more than half a century, "and we are far and away the best at it," Falco said. "We have built up a rare trust and loyalty with our audience."

But the company won't rest on its laurels, he emphasized, saying "it pays to be ahead of the curve." Importantly, Falco said that "we also have the relevant content U.S. Hispanics crave,"  calling Univision's exclusive access to Televisa content "a huge competitive advantage."
 
Asked about reports that Univision has discussed an English-language joint venture with ABC News, executives declined to comment on Friday.

Management touted the outlook for the political advertising season though, saying Univision is spending millions to launch its political sales force.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai