Next month, Univision Communications Inc. hopes to score a high-definition hat trick.
The Spanish-leader media leader in the U.S., which is presenting all 64 matches from
the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will begin making Galavision available in HD on June 1, 10
days before the competition kicks off from South Africa. The cable network will join
Univision and TeleFutura networks, as well as stations groups, in the enhanced format.
Tonia O'Connor, executive vice president, distribution sales and marketing at
Univision Communications, anticipates that a number of distributors will begin
carrying Galavision HD in front of the World Cup. Both the standard- and high-definition
versions of the cable service will present 27 encore match performances from the FIFA futbol quadrennial.
"Galavision HD is important to distributors," said O'Connor. "We feel confident it will
gain broad distribution."
Historically, Latinos have been early adopters of technology, but there has been a relative
dearth of HD programming in Spanish, according to O'Connor. "No one really has been
incentivized to upgrade," she said. "We think our products can drive HD adoption for Hispanic consumers."
Univision Communications began offering Univision and TeleFutura networks and stations
in HD in December 2009. To date, the rollouts by cable operators and telcos like Verizon FiOS
and AT&T U-verse have come largely with stations in key Latino markets,
O'Connor said, noting that more than half of Univision's 39 owned-and-operated stations
are now being distributed in HD. The percentage is less among affiliate stations,
which are playing catch-up relative to bandwidth. She expects HD launches across the board
to accelerate over the next few weeks.
"There is a huge incentive for distributors to launch HD with the world's most popular
sporting event," she said.
The HD rollouts to date and those that may launch in the weeks ahead emanate from a
series of retransmission-consent deals Univision Communications reached with
distributors in 2009, as well as new affiliate pacts, according to officials at the media giant.
Late last month, DirecTV became the first video provider to begin distributing Univision
HD and TeleFutura HD nationally, as the top DBS player continued its push toward offering
more than 160 HD services. Moreover, DirecTV said it would soon be carrying the Univision
and TeleFutura local stations in the enhanced format in top Hispanics markets,
prior to the start of the World Cup.
In addition to the World Cup, Univision and TeleFutura present an array of movies and series
in the enhanced format. Relative to the flagship broadcast network, O'Connor said nearly all
of Univision's primetime slate is now transmitted in HD.
"We cycle through novellas quickly and some of those productions have not been filmed in the
format," she said. "We don't envision much over the next year that won't be produced in HD."
Moreover, O'Connor said the company expects that local news programming will be produced
in HD on Univision stations in New York, Miami and Los Angeles by year-end.
Coming out of the gate, Galavision's initial HD programming focus will be the encored World
Cup matches. More programming will be delivered in HD in the months thereafter, according
Univision is complementing the demand building for its product in general and World Cup fare
in particular with an educational initiative supporting its HD and video-on-demand platforms
under the "Know Your Technology" heading. The program features plugs from on-air talent,
30-second TV and radio promos, contests and other mechanisms.
"We plan to continue to deliver educational and promotional messages," she said.
"Those are ever-green tools for our affiliates to help them grow their business."