Univision sets up own studio

Miami-based studio for telenovelas, reality shows, dramas

NEW YORK -- Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications is pushing further into original production and co-production, unveiling Monday the creation of Univision Studios.

Industry veteran Luis Fernandez will head up the operation as president, reporting to Univision Networks president Cesar Conde, who took over the job in October. Univision Studios will be based in Miami.

Univision has an exclusive content deal with Grupo Televisa through at least 2017, and both sides have signaled an interest in potentially continuing that relationship beyond that. However, Monday's news also helps Univision with its goal of boosting its own output.

The company said Univision Studios will build on the 4,000 hours of original programming that it already produces annually. It will work on telenovelas, reality shows, dramas and entertainment specials for all of the company's networks and platforms.

"The creation of Univision Studios is a transformational step in the development and growth of our company and an important, natural extension of our business," said Univision president and CEO Joe Uva. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to expand our offering of quality Spanish-language programming to our loyal audiences not only through our existing programming partners, but by building on our established multi-genre production track record to create more original productions and co-productions."

Fernandez joins Univision from Corporacion Radio Television Espanola (RTVE), the largest broadcasting company in Spain. As its president since 2007, he has taken TVE-1 from third place to being the most watched network in Spain.

Previously, he served as managing director of Promofilm U.S., a production company with locations in Miami and LA. He was executive producer for "Al Filo de la Ley" (At The Edge of the Law), the first fiction series to air on Univision in primetime in 2005. He is also the executive producer of feature films, such as "Un Dia Sin Mexicanos" (A Day Without a Mexican), a co-production with Televisa that broke boxoffice records in Mexico.

Appearing at a UBS investor conference Monday, Entravision Communications chairman and CEO Walter Ulloa, whose broadcaster has many Univision affiliates, was asked about the new Univision program initiative.

"If it generates strong ratings, certainly that would be a great outcome for all of us," he said, adding his firm, in which Univision also has a minority stake, will offer any support needed to make it a success.

Will the U.S.-produced content be relevant to Entravision's audience? "I think it will," Ulloa said.