Univision, Televisa Settle Spat


Spanish-language broadcasting powerhouses Grupo Televisa and Univision Communications last week settled their years-long programming dispute, agreeing to a new deal that increases payments to Televisa.

According to the parties, the new deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will run through 2017 and will include a simplified royalty payment that will result in increased payments to Televisa in exchange for incremental rights for Univision. The two companies said that litigation between the parties under way in Los Angeles federal court has been settled and will be dismissed.

“For Univision, it assures that there will be no disruption in some of its most popular and valuable programming, as well as affording Univision an ongoing pipeline of future content developed by Televisa,” the statement concluded. Televisa, based in Mexico City, produces telenovelas and other popular programming for Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S.

According to several published reports, Univision agreed to pay Televisa about $585 million in the settlement — $25 million in cash, plus advertising time worth $65 million a year through the life of the deal.

Univision would not comment on the reports.

“This was truly a mutually beneficial agreement,” a spokesperson for the network said in a statement. “The cash and EBITDA impact to Univision from the settlement is minimal.”

The dispute goes back to 2005, when Televisa filed suit in U.S District Court for the Central District of California, alleging Univision's failure to pay royalties and unauthorized editing of certain Televisa programs. The trial began on Jan. 6 of this year.

Adding fuel to the dispute was Univision's decision to put itself up for sale, which Televisa — an early bidder for the broadcaster — claimed would void its programming agreements.

Televisa later said that Univision owed it about $118 million in unpaid royalties, primarily for unsold commercial time used by Univision subsidiaries. So far, Univision has paid about $20 million of that, under protest.

Univision was bought by investors including Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Providence Equity Partners and Texas Pacific Partners in 2006 for $13.7 billion.

Separately, Televisa will license to Univision the home games for the three Televisa-owned Mexican soccer teams —America, Necaxa and San Luis — for 2009.

As previously planned, U.S. Web rights to Televisa programming will be adjudicated in a federal district court in Los Angeles in March 2009.