Joe Uva takes over at Univision

Hands-on approach said to contrast with predecessor

There is a new, more open dynamic at work at Hispanic powerhouse Univision -- and the change can in large part be attributed to the tone set by CEO Joe Uva.

While no one would ever describe Uva as an over-the-top personality, his hands-on approach and openness with his employees, the media and Wall Street are the opposite of the bunker mentality imposed by his predecessor, Jerry Perenchio.

While Perenchio ran Univision from his Los Angeles office -- a continent away from the network's sales and marketing operation -- and was a courtside regular at Lakers games, Uva is based in New York, where he works right alongside the sales staff, participating in pitches and even spending much of his downtime interacting with clients.

"Joe has been a breath of fresh air," a longtime Univision employee said. "We always had a strong message to tell about our media assets, but we could never talk about it outside the company because of Perenchio's edict to not talk to the press. Under Joe, we've been able to get our message out there. This has gotten us recognition outside and has created a stronger sense of pride inside."

Media buyers also have signaled that they appreciate the new sense of openness and cooperation and the revamped sales structure under the new regime.

Monica Gadsby, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Multicultural, which oversees Hispanic-media decisions for companies including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Continental Airlines, Heineken and Wal-Mart, says if she ever has an issue to take up with Univision, she never has a problem getting Uva on the phone -- not always the case under Perenchio.

"Joe has brought to Univision a little more of the buyer's perspective and a willingness to be more flexible in the ad opportunities that the company can offer," says Gadsby, pointing out that there's now "more of a sense of collaboration among all the divisions. Under Perenchio, each division competed against each other, and it was almost impossible to get cross-platform deals done. Now, we can truly buy across all platforms."

The English-language broadcast networks -- which, especially in markets with large Hispanic populations, are facing stiffer competition for audiences from Spanish-language nets like Univision and NBC Universal's Telemundo -- also have taken notice of the new Univision.

"Joe has made some smart moves there," said Jon Nesvig, sales president at Fox Broadcasting. "He's an incredibly smart, hard-working guy who has a lot of energy and has brought with him a lot of insight from the media agency side. He knows what advertisers are looking for."

Uva was an admirer of the Hispanic marketplace and the buying power of the U.S. Hispanic community long before he succeeded Perenchio 14 months ago. When he joined media agency OMD as worldwide president and CEO in January 2002, following a 17-year sales career at Turner Broadcasting, Uva was well aware that advertisers not reaching out to Hispanic audiences were missing out on a significant business opportunity.

Realizing that the agencies representing America's largest marketers needed to do more to educate clients about the opportunities Hispanic media could play in growing their market share, Uva in 2004 was instrumental in helping create OMD Latino, a partnership with sibling Omnicom Group unit Del Rivero Messianu DDB.

When Perenchio sold Univision to a consortium of private-equity firms and media mogul Haim Saban for $12.5 billion and $1.3 billion in debt, Uva was approached by an executive search firm representing the new owners and jumped at the chance, taking over less than two months before the 2007 Univision upfront. But even as he presented to advertisers at the annual event -- something Perenchio never did -- Uva was busy instituting changes in the company's ad sales operation.

The new boss took several months to make key personnel moves, ending up by replacing only three of the network's top 15 execs. One of Uva's major hires was David Lawenda, formerly of MTV Networks, who joined Univision as president, ad sales and marketing, a new position at the center of the restructuring. Other key hires included Terry Mackin, formerly executive vp of Hearst-Argyle Television, as president of the Univision TV Stations Group, and Tonia O'Connor, formerly of Gemstar-TV Guide, as Univision's exec vp distribution sales and marketing.

It was O'Connor who announced last week that beginning in January 2009, Univision would make available more than 1,000 hours of VOD news, sports and entertainment programming previously televised on Univision, TeleFutura and Galavision.

The most significant of Uva's management changes was tapping Lawenda with oversight for broadcast networks Univision and TeleFutura, cable net Galavision and the radio station group. Previously, there was no overall sales chief, with Univision network having co-sales presidents and the other networks and radio group having their own sales heads.

Another key move was bringing in a pair of well-known, experienced sales execs with backgrounds in English-language TV -- Lisa McCarthy, formerly of CBS, and former NBC executive Peter Lazarus -- enabling Univision to more effectively compete with its English-language rivals.