Galavisión is the quiet giant of Spanish-language cable. It boasts 47.7 million subscribers and according to Nielsen Media Research a 34 share of the entire Spanish-language cable and satellite audience. That’s more than fourth-place Spanish-language broadcast network Azteca América. Kagan Research estimates Galavisión brought in over $20 million in gross ad revenues last year and projects that number will jump above $24 million this year.
“They have a nice cash-flow margin, especially for a cable network,” said Kagan Research senior analyst Deana Myers. “It is more significant than most cable networks and not even just in the Hispanic realm.”
Its formula for success, Myers said, is a “strong viewer following”; “the luck of being around for so long”; and “[corporate parent] Univision’s backing.”
Yet, despite its success, Galavisión gets little ink — in the press and even in Univision’s quarterly or annual reports — and the network’s executives rarely agree to interviews. Galavisión senior vice president and general manager Joanne Lynch, for instance, was apparently last interviewed around the time of the network’s 25th anniversary in 2004.
But keeping network executives from talking to the press is not hurting Galavisión with media buyers and viewers.
“It has great programming,” said Halim Trujillo, MindShare director of multicultural planning. “It makes me happy every morning when I watch my news from Mexico.”
Viewers like the Mexican-born Trujillo can pick from 10½ hours a day of Mexican news programs on Galavisión. The Noticiero con Paola Rojas is the most popular of the newscasts and is often seen by more viewers than CNN, MSNBC or Fox News Channel during the same time slot. In total, Galavision airs at least 21 hours of regularly scheduled programming produced by Mexican broadcaster Televisa each weekday. One of the remaining hours is given over to infomercials.
The network’s most popular regularly-scheduled program: 30-year-old reruns of Televisa sitcom El Chavo del 8, which air for an hour each weekday. The show has been syndicated widely throughout Latin America and enjoys enormous popularity throughout the region.
El Chavo del 8 centers on an 8-year-old orphan (portrayed by an adult actor) who lives in a barrel and dreams about ham sandwiches. For the week ending March 18th, six episodes of El Chavo made Nielsen’s list of top 10 shows on Spanish-language cable. The single most-watched show was an episode of El Chavo that brought in a total of 691,000 viewers.
Galavisión also benefits from popular live soccer matches, including Fútbol Liga Mexicana and the UNCAF Nations Cup, which ran for much of February. Recent network press releases have talked up the Saturday-morning cooking show Delicioso and the home-decorating program Decorando Contigo, but together the two programs have far fewer viewers than one of the top-rated El Chavo episodes.
And there lies the rub for Galavisión. The network is highly dependent on programming from Televisa for its success. Those shows are provided as part of a program-licensing agreement between the two networks that is due to expire in 2017. Televisa and Univision are embroiled in a legal dispute in federal court that is scheduled to go to a jury trial in October. Televisa seeks to end the existing PLA.
Regardless of the case’s outcome, Galavisión will struggle to extract much more than the modest amount it receives in per subscriber carriage fees. Kagan Research estimates Galavisión earns only 3 cents per subscriber. But, given the network’s strong ratings and increasing ad revenue, that may not be a huge headache and certainly it is the kind of headache that most Spanish-language networks would dearly love to have.