Mr. Nogales and representatives from 11 other Hispanic activist organizations that make up the National Latino Media Council were scheduled to hold a series of meetings with Univision officials throughout July.
Despite the continued resurgence of Telemundo, Univision commands more than 70 percent of the U.S. Spanish-language TV market. According to HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business Inc., Univision received about 40 percent, or about $872 million, of the roughly $2.2 billion spent on Hispanic advertising in the United States last year.
Univision’s programming strategy is as simple as it is successful: The network acquires most of its primetime offerings – the overwhelming majority of which are telenovelas – from foreign producers, minimizing production costs while retaining, and in many cases building, audience share.
It is precisely that model that bothers Mr. Nogales.
“This material is detrimental to our people in that it keeps them rooted in another society and keeps them from becoming fully integrated in the country where they have to be able to compete for a job,” he says.
In fact, Telemundo’s emphasis on foreign-produced telenovelas is one of the reasons Mr. Nogales and other members of the National Latino Media Council are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to overturn NBC’s purchase of the network.
With Univision, Telemundo, and upstart Azteca America all pursuing a programming format rich in telenovelas and other foreign-produced content, some observers worry about U.S. Spanish-language TV becoming homogenized.
Federico Subervi, a professor of communications at the University of Texas at Austin, says the merger would mean political debate within the U.S Hispanic community becoming degraded still further.
“Latino media is going the way of the Anglo media conglomerates,” he says, referring to recent mega-mergers that have spawned media empires on the order of AOL Time Warner and Viacom. “With consolidation, you always have to be concerned about whether a variety of viewpoints will be represented. There’s hardly a diversity of political voices on the air now, and yet we expect Latinos to be involved.”
The merger would enable Univision to become a diversified media conglomerate in its own right. For one thing, it would enable the network to promote its music acts via HBC’s popular radio programming. Univision owns three record labels, including Fonovisa, the industry’s leading distributor of Mexican regional music. Univision acquired that label from Televisa in a deal valued at upwards of $240 million that closed in April.
Univision, whose chairman, A. Jerrold Perenchio, controls more than 60 percent of the company’s voting stock, owns more than 50 television stations and recently launched a second broadcast network, TeleFutura. The latter network has already achieved nearly a 10 share of the U.S. Hispanic audience. Univision also operates the cable channel Galavision.
The merger would give Univision the number 1 Spanish-language TV station and the number 1 Spanish-language radio stations in Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston. In New York and Chicago, it would own the number 1 Spanish-language TV station and the number 2 radio station.
Nevertheless, analysts expect the merger to meet with minimal resistance from the FCC. One possible complication involves Univision’s 31 percent stake in its primary affiliate owner/operator Entravision, whose other media properties include radio stations in several markets also served by HBC. Regulators may require sale of some of the seven stations owned by HBC in Dallas because Entravision owns six stations in that market. Under a less likely scenario, regulators might order some of HBC’s six Los Angeles stations sold to avoid an ownership concentration in that market; Entravision has four Los Angeles radio properties.
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