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Univision Communications Plans Novela, Sports, News Channels

Randy Falco

COO Randy Falco says the recent census and this year's upfront advertising market could be a "tipping point" for Spanish-language media.

NEW YORK - Spanish-language media company Univision Communications is planning to launch a telenovela cable channel in the U.S. during the third quarter and a sports and likely also a 24/7 news network next year to offer its Spanish-language audience additional content outlets, executive vp and COO Randy Falco said Wednesday.

He also predicted strong upfront advertising market sales for the company, with growth at least as high as last year, and said the recent census should serve as a "tipping point" for Univision and other media firms targeting Hispanics. "It is a great signal to the marketplace," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's finally a tipping point that marketers can no longer ignore."   Falco also told THR that Univision is preparing a Groupon-type service, which would offer daily deals and could launch in the coming months to add an online commerce business to the company's portfolio, and that his team is currently looking at windowing strategies and whether to make some content available on such online video services as Netflix and Hulu, among others.   The news of the new cable channel launches follows a recent new long-term programming deal with Mexican broadcaster Televisa, which also acquired a stake in Univision.
Related: How the Telenovela Is Beating the Networks
  It also comes at a time when other sector players have started to target the fast-growing Hispanic audience. For example, NBCUniversal recently said it has created Hispanics at NBCU, putting together its Telemundo broadcast network, mun2 and other networks with significant Hispanic audiences. And News Corp.'s Fox Networks Group unveiled the launch of Spanish-language channel Nat Geo Mundo, which together with two other networks will be part of a Hispanic channels group called Fox Hispanic Media.   The telenovela channel, for which the company is eyeing the name UniNovelas, is based on a network that Televisa operates in Mexico, Falco said, describing the ability to bring it to the U.S. as a "plug-and-play" solution.   For the first quarter of 2012, the company is targeting the launch of sports channel Univision Deportes, which is expected to get at least some of Univision's, but also TeleFutura's soccer broadcasts. The company is also considering buying rights for boxing events and Mexican baseball. Falco said Univision's established networks could fill any holes in the schedule left by moving soccer events to the sports channel with Televisa programming.   Later in 2012, Univision hopes to launch a 24/7 news channel, UniNoticias, according to Falco who said the company's core Hispanic audience prefers to watch the news in Spanish.

Jessica Rodriguez, senior vp, Univision Cable Networks, is a key executive working on the new channel launches. Sandy Brown, president of Univision Sports, is preparing the sports network, while Isaac Lee, president of Univision News, is working on the news channel. They all report to Cesar Conde, president, Univision Networks.

"We're Univision," Falco said when asked why the company is confident it will do well despite the large number of cable networks in existence today. "We have a very, very unique relationship with viewers and the Hispanic community."   The Univision COO said the company is in talks with distribution partners about the planned networks and possible carriage deals. Especially for the sports channel, since it will likely get some content currently airing on the Univision broadcast network, the company is looking for a fully distributed network. Falco said one argument in distribution talks that should help get broad reach is that cable and satellite TV operators, as well as telecom firms' video services also want to serve Hispanic consumers.   Asked about the upfront, Falco predicted "very strong growth" at the same level as last year or above. Univision's upfront gains amounted to around 12% last year. "I think it will be the first true marker on whether they get it," he said about marketers who have so far not acitvely targeted Hispanics.
  He also said that he expects to see new brands coming to Univision thanks in part to the attention caused by the census. And NFL lockout worries could also shift some ad dollars to Univision given that the company reaches young demos, he predicted.    Asked about the recent decision by Joe Uva to leave the post of Univision president and CEO and whether he was interested in the job, Falco said he would rather not discuss the issue.   Confronted with the retirement announcement of Don Browne, head of competitor Telemundo Communications Group, earlier in the day, Falco said the departure announcements within weeks of the heads of the two big Spanish-language broadcasters are just a coincidence.   The executive repeatedly said that Univision has increasingly looked to reach its audience on multiple platforms, including online and on cell phones. How about making content available via aggregators? "We are evaluating now" whether to strike deals with the likes of Netflix, Hulu and others, he said. "We are putting together a windowing strategy."