Univision: IPO Probable During "Next 12-18 Months"

Randy Falco - H - 2015
Associated Press

CFO Andrew Hobson said that an IPO would probably happen "in the next 12-18 months," but emphasized that the current owners would make these decisions.

Univision Communications CFO Andrew Hobson said Thursday that an initial public offering was still the likeliest option for the Spanish-language media company's private equity owners to exit their investment.

And he said that an IPO would probably happen "in the next 12-18 months," but emphasized that the current owners would make such decisions. Some observers had expected an IPO last year, but a possible sale of the company had also emerged as an option.

Hobson made his comments on the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

Univision has been privately held since a $12 billion buyout in 2007 by Thomas H. Lee Partners, Providence Equity Partners and Saban Capital Group, among others. Televisa, a Mexican broadcaster that provides programming to Univision, also owns a stake in the company.

Also on the call, Univision CEO Randy Falco touted the company's ratings and financial trends. "We have strong momentum," he said, predicting 2015 would be "another great year" for the company.

Asked about challenges for all TV networks, Falco said fragmentation because of technological change was happening faster than expected, echoing similar comments from 21st Century Fox about advertisers' moves from TV to digital ad spending.

But he said advertisers seem to remain unsure how effective digital advertising was. Falco said there was "a lot of trepidation and confusion in the advertising world." Many marketers want digital extensions, but weren't sure how they should work. "There is a lot of uncertainty ... in the market," he concluded.

And he added that audience measurement issues remain a problem. "The measurement issue is very, very concerning to me," he said. There is a lot of out-of-home mobile viewing that has to be captured, he added. Hobson said that there is still a lot of live primetime viewing by Univision's audience, with 91 percent of primetime telenovela viewing being live.

Asked about Univision's agreement to provide content via Dish's Sling TV online video service, Hobson called it a "sensisble way" to experiment with over-the-top offers. He said Univision reaches over-the-air "cord-nevers" who feel they would not get much value in a basic cable bundle.‎ Sling would allow Univision to provide them with a "more robust" content offering, the CFO said.

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