Univision: We're No. 5 And We Got The Youth Creds

Univision isn't looking to be No. 1--yet. Instead, it's making a "We're No. 5" pitch heading into the upfront. And with that, the net argues that it deserves a greater share of dollars as buyers dissect its performance vis-à-vis the leading English-language broadcasters.

The fifth-highest-rated network certainly doesn't appear to be skimping on programming for the new season, offering a Spanish version of hit "Desperate Housewives," a mini-series created by Jennifer Lopez and a new soccer tournament with the best teams from Mexico facing top clubs from the U.S. league MLS.

New CEO Joe Uva, a top buyer until he took the job in February, hinted at the idea that the network's value to advertisers is under-appreciated. He told attendees at Wednesday's upfront presentation that Univision is looking "to unlock its power for all of you."

The network looks to be on its way. Merrill Lynch projects its upfront take will jump 8% this year to $1.2 billion--a higher percentage gain than any broadcaster, even the strong Fox. And its prime-time ratings make it the fifth-highest-rated network in the key 18-to-49 and 18-to-34 demos, even trailing NBC by only .6 in 18-to-34.



Univision should benefit in the upfront from doing deals for the first time based on the same ratings used by its English-ratings counterparts. In the past, advertisers have insisted on using the now-defunct Nielsen index for Hispanic homes as a basis.

Network executives argued Wednesday that it's not just the reach that makes the network an enticing marketing option, but the strong viewer engagement it delivers. It posted one stat showing that 44% of Univision viewers make a purchase due to an ad on the net. Plus, it presents a venue to intimately connect with a growing audience with increasing buying power. Most telling, it has a young-skewing group--the average age of U.S. Hispanics is 26, said network executives, perhaps accounting for the competitive 18-to-34 ratings.

The network "helps set the beat for so much of Hispanic life in this country," said Univision President-COO Ray Rodriguez.

Univision said its new programming for 2007-08 includes more than 30 new shows (on the flagship as well as sister nets Telefutura and Galavision).

On the programming front, expect a five-part mini-series developed by Jennifer Lopez inspired by her first Spanish-language album. Appearing at the upfront, Lopez said it involves "figuring out what real love is today."

There is a Spanish version of ABC smash "Desperate Housewives," described as having "a unique novela lover's appeal," referring to the programming genre popular with Hispanics. Addressing media buyers, Rodriguez called the show being shot in Argentina an "advertiser haven for product integration opportunities."

In sports, "SuperLiga" is exclusive to the three Univision networks and features the top teams from the Mexican soccer league playing some of the best teams in the U.S. Worldwide star David Beckham, who is joining MLS this summer, is expected to participate.

While telenovelas failed in English as a tentpole for the fledgling MyNetworkTV, Univision is sticking with them and debuting four new ones in prime time.

Univision is also launching a Sunday morning "Meet the Press"-style news/analysis show ("Al Punto"), inspired by the increased influence Hispanic Americans have on the political process, especially leading into the 2008 elections. Presidential contenders and other prominent politicians are expected to be interviewed.

Univision challenger Telemundo is launching a similar half-hour show, "Enfoque," that will include interviews with Hispanic community leaders along with discussion of topics facing Hispanics in the U.S.

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