Ahead of its “Culture Unbound” upfront presentations on May 14 and 15, Univision addressed head on business issues surrounding the company as it held its NewFront on Friday.
“Yes, we are going through a business review. And, yes, we are cutting costs and we are laying off employees,” said Tonia O’Connor, chief revenue officer for Univision Communications Inc.
The company laid off more than 150 employees in April following an initial 20 job losses that were announced earlier this year as part of a “multi-year transformation,” according to a company statement.
More specifically, CEO Randy Falco will exit the company by year end despite signing a two-year contract extension that would have taken him through 2020. The company canceled an initial public offering in March. And Univision is facing a heavy reported debt load, increased competition from chief rival Telemundo, and the recent departures of Gizmondo Media Group CEO Raju Narisetti, and Fusion’s CEO Felipe Holguin and President and Chief Content Officer Daniel Eilemberg.
Raju Narisetti joined Gizmondo less than two years ago after Univision bought the former Gawker digital media sites, which are now known as the Gizmondo Media Group, a subsidiary of Fusion. Univision has tried to diversify in the past few years with the launch of cable offshoots and investments in an array of digital media companies, including the Root, Fusion, the Onion and the assets of Gawker Media. But the sites have not been profitable despite a reported rise in traffic, and the ultimate employee reduction, according to the Wall Street Journal, is projected to hit 35 percent of the company’s total workforce.
“One of the stories that has not been told is we are a growth company that serves great value,” said O’Connor. “We are all about expansion and diversification. Today, we have 17 networks – Spanish, English, in linear and in digital. We are the number-one Hispanic media company: number-one not just in broadcast but also in cable, in digital, in radio and in social.”
“We are reprioritizing and reimagining our future,” she added. “At Univision, we feel it is time for us to really make a big move, and not to be on top of what is happening right now but to get ahead of everything. Unfortunately, part of that is we have to cut costs and we have to reallocate recourses.”
Focused on what it refers to as a modern consultative approach, built on the intersection of content, distribution, data and advertising, Univision was mum on its new programming for next season, which will be unveiled at its “Culture Unbound” presentations. But it did discuss new digital customized content initiatives, partnering with brands including ACE Media, Facebook Watch Oath, PopSugar, Snapchat, TED and the NFL Players Association.
“With these partnerships in place, we are combining digital equity with cultural insights, which will put our marketing partners in touch with every U.S. Hispanic in the digital environment,” said O’Connor.
The company also announced a suite of data-driven advertising tools called Aperture by Univision Communications, which will help clients tailor their campaigns with target ads, evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the individual client campaigns, and offer a platform with programmatic buying and audience-targeting capabilities. It also has launched UCI Studios, a full-service content studio offering customized content and branded content.
UCI, additionally, is expanding its streaming service to include a subscription video-on-demand service, which will feature content from Univision, BBC Studios, RTVE, Televisa and Viacom across all genres.
“Univision is the gateway to U.S. Hispanics. Whether you are a media company or you are a brand, if you want to be in business with Hispanics, Univision is your partner,” said O’Connor. “But just like every other media and digital company, we have to be realistic about the disruption, about the pace at which technology and consumer behavior are changing our business. And the biggest mistake we can make right now is to just stand still.”