Univision emphasizes language at upfront

Network touts largest programming investment in its history

NEW YORK -- Stars, advertisers and media buyers came out in force for the Univision Communications upfront event here Thursday afternoon. And management touted its biggest programming investment in history, particularly on Sunday night.

The event at Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln in the Time Warner Center opened with Ricky Martin walking onto stage to a standing ovation and tweeting "Viva el Espanol!" as seen on a screen behind him.
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Univision executives later said that Martin's production company is behind a show unveiled a day earlier for the company's Galavision cable network. The show tries to get a long-married couple and their relationship "Back in Wedding Shape" with the help of a counselor and fitness expert.

As Martin left the stage, a video started playing that touted the continuing growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. and, what Univision repeatedly called their language of choice, Spanish. As the video faded out, Univision Communications president and CEO Joe Uva was surrounded by a big group of people of different ages repeating the event's theme in Spanish: "Viva el Espanol!"

Uva and another video also highlighted that this year's U.S. census will show how multicultural the company is and how Hispanics continue to lead the way as the fastest-growing minority group.

The video featured Hispanic politicians and such stars as Jennifer Lopez, Cheech Marin, Carlos Mencia, Edward James Olmos and others.

"No media company you heard from this week compares" in terms of Univision's reach, share, passion and trust among Hispanics, Uva concluded.

Univision Networks president Cesar Conde and president of advertising sales and marketing David Lawenda then touted Univision's biggest programming investment in history and its biggest Sunday night investment ever - thanks in part to its recently launched Univision studios, which is producing or co-producing several new shows for the new TV season. At a press conference later, management declined to detail the size of the programming investment.

Conde showed clips of new shows, saying that Sunday nights will continue to see Univision's take on the beauty pageant "Nuestra Belleza Latina," but it will add new big event shows for the second, third and fourth quarters, respectively. "We should see other people," Conde joked as "Nuestra Belleza Latina" contestants came out on stage. "It's not you...it's me."

One of the new Sunday event shows will be Univision's take on a "Survivor"-type format, another a dancing competition featuring celebrities and dancer and the final one big, interactive game show "El Gran Show."

In another particularly well-received skit Thursday, Univision juxtaposed its style of soccer coverage ahead of this summer's World Cup with that of ESPN.

First, a fake announce team from ELTN (English-language television network) took the stage with "cheerios" and a low-key style.

The announcer duo told the audience that Buenos Aires is Spanish for "good wind." And upon a goal from Argentina, an announcer intoned: "Ah, score." Added the other: "Simply sublime."
Then Univision's announcing team took over full of passion, noise and the traditional "Gol!" celebration, followed by trumpets and confetti falling from the ceiling to huge applause from the audience.

Univision also used Thursday's upfront show to announce that it has signed a deal to become the exclusive home of the Mexican national team and its matches following this summer's World Cup.

The company promised Super Bowl-type ratings for what executives said is U.S. Hispanics' favorite soccer team.

The upfront presentation ended with a musical performance by Ricky Martin.

Other highlights from the Univision upfront:
-- Haim Saban, whose Saban Capital Group is lead investor in Univision, was in attendance.

-- Lawenda told advertisers that out of the top 50 shows among Hispanics, 49 are on Spanish-language TV, with the Super Bowl the one exception.

Even among bilingual Hispanics, 44 of the top 50 are on Spanish-language TV. Exceptions are special events like the Super Bowl and Oscars.

-- Conde said TeleFutura was the No. 2 Spanish-language network in the February sweeps period and is  neck-and-neck with Telemundo in May.

Lawenda also cited the "heated battle" for No. 2 and lauded TeleFutura's continued primetime growth.

-- Lawenda told marketers that amid the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. all companies must reach out to this important group.

-- At the press conference, Uva and Conde said while Univision Studios allows the firm to diversify its programming as do deals with other program suppliers, Univision continues to work closely with Mexican TV giant Televisa despite the past legal showdown of the two. Both executives lauded "our friends at Televisa."

Univision Studios also allows Univision to integrate more products into its primetime shows, Uva said.
Will Univision eventually compete with Televisa for talent and show production? "I don't think we're ever going to compete with anyone directly," said Conde. "We can partner with all our partners."

-- How will the soccer World Cup competition between Univision and ESPN shape up?
Since Univision has exclusive Spanish-language rights, Uva said "I doubt that there will be any Hispanics tuning into the World Cup on ESPN unless it is for 3D." He also said "Hispanic viewers know and see the difference." He also hopes to draw in English-language viewers with the excitement his announce team brings to the table, he said.