Univision CEO Expects No "Meaningful" Election Impact, Addresses Ratings Challenges

Randy Falco Getty H 2016
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"We view our role as empowering U.S. Hispanics as important as ever," Randy Falco says after Donald Trump's election win.

Donald Trump's surprise win in the U.S. presidential election will not have an impact on Univision Communications, CEO Randy Falco said Thursday. 

Asked about the result on the Spanish-language media giant's third-quarter earnings conference call, he said: "I don’t see that the election is going to impact Univision in any meaningful way. I certainly hope that is not the case from Washington."

He added: "But I do think that we continue to advocate for this community regardless of who is in the White House. We are very proud of the fact that we advocate and we ask tough questions from both parties, from political leaders from both parties, and we will continue to do that. And I think that is the best way that we can service this community going forward. So, I don’t see an impact on it.”

And he concluded: "This is a growing demographic that is increasingly influential in all circles of our culture frankly, including the political culture."

Univision earlier this year settled a lawsuit brought by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump over its decision to not air the Miss USA pageant in light of comments he had made. "Unless Donald Trump wants to relive what [Mitt] Romney went through in the last election and make the mistake of disregarding the Hispanic community and the Hispanic voter," he will have to talk to them or "probably end up in the same place that Romney did," Falco said in May.

Falco started the call by saying "how proud I am of our news and community empowerment teams for the work we did around the 2016 election." He said that "our audience continued to come to Univision for the most important news around the election," adding that more U.S. Hispanics tuned in to Univision than any other broadcast network for the three TV debates, and the audience was 46 percent higher than that of all other Spanish-language networks combined.

Added Falco: "We view our role as empowering U.S. Hispanics as important as ever."

The company earlier reported a quarterly loss, including a non-cash impairment charge of $199.5 million "primarily related to the write-down of radio broadcast licenses."

Asked about political advertising and advocacy spending this election season, management on Thursday's call said it will this year come in slightly below the $60 million that the company had recorded in the 2012 election year. CFO Francisco Lopez-Balboa said "it is fair to say that was below our expectations," arguing that this "was a very unique election cycle."

NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo this year managed to snap Univision's 32-year streak of ratings wins with a historic run. One analyst asked about Univision's ratings weakness and how much flexibility the company has in its program licensing agreement (PLA) with Mexican TV giant Televisa to change programming.

"We have complete flexibility in primetime," said Falco. "We have up until this time populated on Univision with PLA programming from Televisa. I think in the future, we will have fewer PLA novelas in primetime and seek to do more live programming."

He added: "But we are also working with Televisa very closely, because it's still a big part of what makes us successful here." He said the companies are sharing data and research on changing audiences in the U.S. "I think they are seeing the same thing in Mexico," Falco continued. "So they’ll be making changes to the kinds of programming they produce in the future. These things don't change overnight. I think it will be within the next several months where we see a turnaround."

He also said that two new entertainment executives the company recently hired will "make a very big difference in the ratings going forward."

The CFO added that "it’s not impacting our financial results," even though the company is focusing on programming and ratings. Falco said the most recent quarter's results were mostly driven by one-time or special items and tough year-ago comparisons.

Univision Communications owns such networks as flagship Univision and UniMas, formerly Telefutura, as well as cable channel Galavision and sports network Univision Deportes.