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Univision on VOD, Streaming: Not Yet

5/17/2006 9:11 AM Eastern

New York -- While executives touted branded integration and convergent opportunities throughout Univision Communications Inc.'s upfront presentation to advertisers here Wednesday, video-on-demand and streaming episodes of popular novelas aren't part of the Spanish-language media conglomerate's multiplatform mix.

President and chief operating officer Ray Rodriguez said Univision and top programming supplier Grupo Televisa S.A. were in "a dispute" over which company holds the rights to stream full episodes of novelas over the Internet here in the United States.

"We're working toward an agreement, But it's not something that absolutely needs to be done; it's not a front-burner issue," he said during a question-and-answer session with reporters following the presentation. "It's a lot easier to watch TV on TV."

Relative to VOD, Rodriguez said, "We see it as limited. Our concentration is elsewhere right now."

Rodriguez and other officials sidestepped questions about Univision's possible sale, telling reporters this was a forum to talk about the upfront.

The only query that prompted a response centered on whether advertisers had expressed any reservations about making upfront commitments with the potential for an ownership change. "Advertisers are not concerned about who owns the company. That's a corporate thing, not a programming or a viewership thing," he said.

As for programming, Univision has three new novelas on tap: Heridas de Amor, about a love-hate relationship set against the backdrop of bitter rivalries, family disarray and financial ruin; Duele de Pasiones, which is filmed on a coffee plantation in rural Mexico, where resentment and jealousy rage against love and happiness; and La Verdad Oculta, a story about a wrongly imprisoned ex-con with a score to settle.

La Fea Mas Bella, the tale of an ugly duckling turned swan, debuted April 24. Through its first two weeks, the novela exceeded the performance of Rubi, the network's highest-rated novela, among households, total viewers and adults 18-49, according to Univision officials.

Speaking of ratings, Univision officials also extolled the network's continued progress against the “Big Four” broadcast networks, as the Spanish-language service is topping at least one, if not more, members of that group every other night among the 18-34 set.

In particular, Univision -- through the strength of both editions of Bailando por un Sueno (Dancing for a Dream) -- has become a force among young viewers on Sunday nights. The network is now the third-most-watched broadcast network on that night among adults 18-24, 18-34 and 18-49, kids 2-11 and teens 12-17, topping CBS, NBC and The WB in those measures.

There will also be a pair of primetime specials celebrating the 20th anniversary of variety kingpin Sabado Gigante.

Sister broadcast service TeleFutura -- which has enjoyed a ratings revival since featuring more theatricals in primetime last month -- talked up the arrival of such titles as Spider-Man, Hidalgo, Stuart Little and Agent Cody Banks. The 8 p.m.-10 p.m. film block will be flanked with novelas Por Amor weeknights from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. and La Marca del Deseo from 10 p.m.-11 p.m.

The network will also feature a U.S.-produced version of Family Feud, Que Dice la Gente?.

Cable cousin Galavisión will feature a quartet of diverse new additions: Un Destino, a travel show bringing viewers to exotic locales in the United States and around the globe; Notas de Estilo, a home-décor show where the twist is that the scope of the do-it-yourself projects is determined by the amount of cash held in an envelope; and Delicioso, in which chef/host Ingrid Hoffman will provide tips of how to prepare practical meals and feasts alike.

And working across different networks and platforms, Galavisión will take the competition show in a new direction with Mission: Reportar. Premiering next spring, 10 contestants will vie, via assignments on Univision and TeleFutura entertainment and sports fare, to become a reporter and producer for the company. Promotion for the show will begin this fall, network officials said.

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