Televisa deal points to Univision split


MEXICO CITY -- A landmark programming deal in Mexico between NBC Universal's Telemundo and Televisa has fueled speculation that the Mexican media giant may be seeking new ties in the U.S. Hispanic market as it looks to terminate a long-term license agreement with its stateside partner Univision.

Mexican network Televisa has signed an exclusive programming license agreement to distribute Telemundo's content across multiple platforms here in Mexico. The news comes seven weeks ahead of a U.S. trial that might allow Televisa to sever its U.S. programming pact with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision for alleged breach of contract.

Beginning in April, Televisa's free-to-air Channel 9 will begin broadcasting more than 1,000 hours of Telemundo content.

Televisa also will distribute a new channel featuring Telemundo programming later this year on its pay TV systems, Sky Mexico and Cablevision. Additionally, Televisa expects to ink an agreement to distribute Telemundo's content through emerging platforms including Internet, mobile phones, VOD and home video.

Financial details were not disclosed.

The alliance bodes well for both companies. Telemundo has long been seeking to step up its presence in Mexico after failed attempts to launch a third national network here. Televisa, in turn, is looking to gain a stronger foothold in the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic market.

The Univision-Televisa trial is set for April 29. The long-running legal dispute between the Spanish-language media titans has major implications for Univision, whose networks rely heavily on Televisa content for their primetime programming.

The soured relationship between the two companies turned uglier last year when a Televisa consortium lost a bid to purchase Univision.

Univision on Monday was confident that the Telemundo-Televisa partnership will not affect U.S. operations.

"The announcement applies only to Mexico and does not impact our exclusive access to Televisa programs in the U.S.," the company said.