Univision's Uva Eyes $1 Retransmission-Consent Fees

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New York -- Univision's upfront presentation to advertisers here Wednesday was themed, "I heart Univision." The theme, executives said, underlined the affinity and strong ties that bond the leading Spanish-language broadcast network with its audience.

But cable operators may not share such warm and fuzzy feelings toward the broadcaster following Univision Communications’ new CEO Joe Uva’s comments about retransmission consent. At a press conference after the presentation, Uva talked about Univision seeking $1 per subscriber from retransmission consent for its stations.

Whereas Univision has largely played the must-carry card in the past, Uva said, "Renegotiating retransmission consent is a top priority now" under new ownership group Broadcasting Media Partners.

"We’re in a unique position of being connected to the fastest-growing segment of the population,” he added. “We see a lot of value in that. That value is $1 per subscriber."

Univision owns and operates 62 TV stations in the United States and Puerto Rico, with "the bulk" of the current distribution agreements set to expire at the end of 2008, Uva said.

He acknowledged that some tough bargaining -- which could include video-on-demand content for cable operators -- lies ahead.

"The negotiations, predictably, are going to be hard," Uva said. "But we have a somewhat unique relationship that the English-language broadcasters don't have -- a real connection to viewers and the community."

During the presentation, officials emphasized how Univision was at or near the top of the class among broadcast and cable networks relative to engagement, length of tune-in, audience receptivity to ads and action (read purchase) toward the spots.

Asked during the press conference if Univision's push past Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC among adults 18-34 -- citing Nielsen Media Research data, the Spanish-language leader said it beats one if not all of the Big Four every other day in primetime with that demo -- would result in its drawing more dollars from budgets aimed at the general market upfront, Uva replied: "We hope so." How much? "As much as we can get."

Playing against the form of the previous two upfronts, which featured a roll call of new series and mentions of returning programming, Univision's presentation pointed to only a handful of entries among the 30 new shows it was launching across the flagship service, sister broadcast network TeleFutura and cable cousin Galavisión.

Univision heralded weeknight-primetime novellas Pasion, unfolding the swashbuckling-pirate era, and Muchachitas Come Tu, in which such issues as school, friendship and young love will be dramatized.

Appearing on stage, singer/actor Jennifer Lopez talked up her five-part miniseries, Como Ama una Mujer, inspired by true-life events and based on her first Spanish-language album of the same name. Lopez will serve as creator/executive-producer on the project.

The previously announced Amas de Casa Desesperadas -- a Spanish-language version of Desperate Housewives from Disney-ABC International Television Latin America -- also received mention, as did RBD: La Familia, featuring international recording group RBD in a blend of fiction and reality that will give their fans a look into the lives of the performers.

As for TeleFutura, the emphasis was again placed on its weeknight Hollywood movie block, Cine de las Estrellas, while a taped message from David Beckham kicked off the highlights of the network's coverage of Major League Soccer.

Becks, who will join MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy this summer, is expected to participate in the new SuperLiga tournament, showcasing the top four clubs from Mexico and the United States, which will air exclusively on TeleFutura.

In addition, TeleFutura hyped upcoming one-hour drama Asi es la Vida, during which a different, five-part passion-filled, real-life story airs every weeknight at 10 p.m.

Galavisión, meanwhile, will deliver personal-makeover show Moda al Rescate, which is rife with product-integration opportunities in the clothes, hair care, accessories and make-up categories. Family-friendly Vida Salvaje takes a look at all kinds of wildlife from orphaned baby elephants in Kenya to dolphins in the deep. The program is an acquisition from the British Broadcasting Corp.

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