Univision CEO expects strong upfront

Q1 revenue up 10.6% amid ad rebound

NEW YORK - Univision Communications on Thursday reported a narrowed first-quarter loss of $3.4 million, compared with $55.2 million in the year-ago period.

A 10.6% revenue gain to $453.7 million more than offset higher operating expenses. The year-ago period figure was also dragged down by a legal settlement with Mexican broadcaster Televisa and an impairment loss.

Univision's TV and interactive units boosted their quarterly revenue, while radio was down slightly. Network revenue weas down, partly due to advertisers delaying ad spend into the current and the third quarter due to the soccer World Cup, while TV stations were up.

Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization rose 17.2% to $180.3 million.

"We have continued to see a recovery in the advertising market in the first quarter and are expecting to benefit from the upswing due to a heightened interest in reaching our target demographic," said Univision president and CEO Joe Uva.

On a conference call, he said: "We enter this year's upfront in a very strong position."
Reality and variety shows, as well as dramas from recently launched Univision Studios will be part of the company's upfront presentation, Uva added.

Asked about the longer-term effect of the recession, Uva said more marketers have reassessed their ad spending habits and are putting more money into the Spanish-language market.

CFO Andy Hobson said the company's ad pacings are up more than 20% in the current second-quarter. He cited "tremendous" demand, especially in TV, due also to the upcoming soccer World Cup. For the biggest global sports event of the year, he projected incremental revenue of around $100 million, compared with $110 million for the 2006 World Cup.

Uva also predicted that once the current census is done, the U.S. Hispanic community will be confirmed to be over 50 million strong, closing in on the 58 million population of Italy. The demo would also be the 14th largest consumer economy in the world if it was its own country, just behind Mexico, he said.