MIPCOM 2012: Televisa CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean on Going Global, Teaming With Lionsgate and Taking On Carlos Slim

Televisa Mexican TV Station Logo - P 2012

Televisa Mexican TV Station Logo - P 2012

The head of the Spanish media giant received this year’s personality of the year award.

CANNES - Five years ago, Emilio Azcarraga Jean, Chairman of the board and CEO of Grupo Televisa, told the industry crowd at international television confab MIPCOM that his Mexican television company was going global.

In 2012, Azcarraga returned to receive MIPCOM’s Personality of the Year award as the head of a media conglomerate with operations that stretch across the United States, Latin America and as far afield as Europe and Asia.

Taking the stage to deliver a keynote address, Azcarraga highlighted the rapid transformation the media industry has seen since his last visit.

“Five years ago the iPhone had just come out. Now everyone has a smartphone and everyone has or wants a tablet,” he said, noting that the rapid shift to mobile use was one of the driving forces behind Televisa’s decision last year to acquire a 50 percent stake in Iusacell, Mexico’s number two cell phone company, for $1.6 billion.

That deal put Televisa and Azcarraga in direct competition with Mexico’s leading mobile carrier Telcel, owned by Carlos Slim, the world’s wealthiest man.

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"The media say it is a battle of giants but if you look at it, it is between a $70 billion giant (Slim’s estimated net worth) on one side and the much smaller $12 billion or $13 billion giant (Televisa’s market cap)," he joked. 

Azcarraga, however, said he had no problem taking on Slim in the mobile market, arguing that competition would not only bring down costs in the Mexican market but also spur development by allowing more Mexicans to connect to the Internet.

The Mexican media mogul spent most of his keynote speech talking about Televisa’s ambitious outside its home market. He pointed to its recent deal with Lionsgate to produce English-language programming for the U.S. Hispanic market; Televisa’s new first-look co-production agreement with Sony Pictures Television and Chinese adaptations of the company’s hit Telenovela formats as evidence Televisa was making “foreign co-productions our priority.”

The U.S. market – where Televisa is the main supplier, and part-owner, of leading Hispanic TV network Univision – remains Televisa’s main growth market. Calling the 50 million-plus Hispanic population in the U.S. “the largest growing country in the Spanish-speaking world,” Azcarraga said Televisa was only just beginning to tap the huge potential of what was once thought a niche market.

Looking ahead, Azcarraga was loath to predict “what device or what technology” people would be watching TV content on in the future but he pledged that Televisa would stay true to its roots in emotional storytelling.

“My grandfather, who started this business told me that if you tell a good story it can captivate the world,” he said, arguing the blockbuster formula of Televisa’s Telenovelas – with their melodramatic storylines, low cost production and guaranteed happy ends – was not to be messed with. He compared compared the typical Telenovela plot line to “classic stories from Romeo and Juliet to Titanic” but added “if Titanic was one of our Telenovelas, we would probably have added a pair of dolphins to save Jack at the end. We don’t kill the good guy.”