Telemundo Undeterred by Univision-Televisa Pact

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In the days after the announcement of a renewed partnership between Univision Communications Inc. and Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa, many news stories were quick to single out Telemundo as the biggest loser of the transaction.

After all, the NBC-owned Spanish-language network continues to lag behind Univision in prime-time ratings, despite an aggressive - and costly -- strategy of producing its own content. 

But for network president Don Browne, it is "business as usual" at Telemundo, which has a broadcasting, cable and digital agreement firmly in place with Grupo Televisa for the Mexican market.

"I have been interacting directly with Televisa, and they say [the renewed partnership between Univision and Televisa] will have no effect on our Mexico deal," Browne told Hispanic TV Update. "The communication we've been getting from Televisa is that it's business as usual."

Telemundo two years ago signed a 10-year agreement with Grupo Televisa involving the broadcasting of four hours of Telemundo programming on Televisa's Channel 9 (largely telenovelas), a cable partnership and a digital one. None of these is expected to be affected by the Univision-Televisa agreement, in which the Mexican group will invest $1.2 billion in Univision and extend their program licensing agreement (PLA) until 2025, Browne said.

Although Telemundo did not receive any indication from Televisa about the renewed partnership with Univision, Browne said he was not surprised at all. In fact, he said the announcement clears a lot of things for Hispanic TV players, sending a strong signal to the general market about the increasing importance of the Hispanic television market.

"I think everyone is going to benefit from that," Browne said. "All boats will float on a rising tide; and Televisa will help the tide rise."

With Univision and Televisa now officially aligned, analysts believe Univision will not embark in as many own productions as it had announced earlier, when both partners were the middle of their legal squabbling. After all, as Haim Saban, the Los Angeles billionaire and most powerful member of Univisión's board of directors, told The Wall Street Journal the day the deal was announced: "Why would I even wrack our brains here to go try and duplicate what they [Televisa] are doing? We don't need to. We have the original Coca Cola formula. We are the butler of the Coca Cola formula."

Indeed, serving the "Coca Cola" would be by far less expensive than producing it, something Telemundo has learned in the past seven years, during which it managed to become a major content player in Spanish-language television.

Univision Network president Cesar Conde, though, contends his company's programming strategy will continue to "build on the momentum" and that the development of original shows will continue full-speed ahead.

"Univision Studios will continue to produce and acquire original content across our platforms including our highly rated award shows and specials and expand on our reality show franchise as well as alternative dramatic series to ensure that we are meeting the constantly evolving tastes of the U.S. Hispanic community," Conde said in a statement.

It has yet to be seen if Univision's renewed partnership with Televisa will give the former a wider margin to include product integrations on telenovelas, something in which Telemundo has taken the lead, writing a role for brands as part of its story plots.

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