Univision Upfront Features Stars, Laughter, Music, Taunts

Courtesy of Univision

Executives laud the Spanish-language network, which will bring back Saturday fixture "Sabado Gigante" for a 50th season, for beating NBC in young demos and vow TeleFutura will step up its battle with Telemundo.

NEW YORK - At its upfront presentation here Thursday afternoon, Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications served up stars, music and dance, laughs and fighting words for Telemundo and NBC, which it has recently beaten among young viewers.

The company wrapped all these ingredients into a one-hour show, shorter than upfront events of most peers, at midtown Manhattan's New Amsterdam Theatre.

Univision Networks president Cesar Conde earned a loud ovation when he told the crowd that "recently, Univision had the peacock network seeing red when we surpassed NBC for three weeks to be ranked as the number four network in America regardless of language not just among adults 18-34, but also among 18-49-year-olds."

Applause had already filled the venue when Univision Communications president of advertising sales and marketing David Lawenda
had earlier mentioned that Univision has "displaced" NBC as the fourth-rated broadcast network among the 18-34 demo.

Touting new content for the fall season, such as a weight loss show that is a spin on The Biggest Loser, and continued Hispanic population growth, whose impact on advertisers Lawenda compared with the arrival of  Baby Boomers, company executives signaled that they don't plan to rest on their laurels, but continue to grow the network.

Conde also highlighted once again that smaller Univision broadcast network TeleFutura wants to regularly outperform competitor Telemundo, owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal, which has focused on Telemundo as a key growth asset.

Pointing out more TeleFutura primetime ratings wins over Telemundo in young demos this season than last, Conde said that his company's network will be "jumping into the ring" in this "ratings slugfest" with an expanded lineup of primetime dramas next season to further improve its performance. As he spoke, a video screen in the background showed an animated TeleFutura logo knocking down the Telemundo logo in a boxing ring.

Additional character-driven dramas that will replace movies will help TeleFutura with its goal of fully establishing itself as the No. 2 Spanish-language broadcast network, Conde suggested, adding that one could argue that without a full drama lineup, the channel has so far pretty much fought with one hand tied behind its back.

Far from fighting rhetoric, Conde earlier showed off his dance moves when he hit the stage during a dance interlude that celebrated the success of Univision's Sunday dance competition Mira Quien Baila, which management announced will return for its second season this fall. Its first season had made it the most-watched reality series in Spanish-language history, he said.

Speaking of returning shows, the audience shared a particularly warm round of applause when Don Francisco, star of Saturday evening fixture Sabado Gigante, got a shoutout from management, and Conde said the longest-running variety show in the world is returning for its 50th season this fall. It will also be the host's 50th season. Its continuation "illustrates our audience's devotion to something that is uniquely ours and the one tradition in Hispanic homes," he said.

As far as other stars at Univision's upfront go, Lucero (a singer/actress who was on hit novela Soy Tu Duena) opened the show, while William Levy (currently starring on Triunfo del Amor) appeared in a funny video with  Lawenda who portrayed his Siamese twin. The video showed a fake telenovela called Unidos Par Siempre and played after the company highlighted its close new relationship with Mexican broadcaster and Univision investor Televisa. In a final push of star power, singer Pitbull ended the Univision upfront show with a performance.

Univision Communications chairman Haim Saban and COO Randy Falco were also in attendance.
Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
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