Univision Is Sinking

A fresh spate of layoffs with more "catastrophic cuts" ahead confirms that Univision's biased business model has brought about its own, painfully self-inflicted undoing.

Here's how Veronica Villafañe described Univision's implosion for Forbes magazine:

Univision's empire seems to be crumbling. The huge aspirations of an IPO, fueled by an expensive and failed joint-venture with ABC, the $135 million acquisition of the Gawker digital sites and another $27.1 million for a 40.5% controlling stake in The Onion have come crashing down.

What appeared to be a forward-thinking strategy to embrace and grow digital to reach a multicultural millennial audience hasn't worked. At least, not fast enough.

Over the past few years, Univision made a series of moves intended to solidify its position in the marketplace and make the network more palatable for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The first was to diversify its portfolio through the acquisition of what was left of Gawker Media after Hulk Hogan sued them into oblivion - a hedge against a rapid increase in the percentage of English-dominant Hispanic households.

The second move was to leverage the network’s platforms in support of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The purpose of that move was to secure regulatory relief for Univision, both through immigration reform and an FCC rule change that would allow Mexican media giant Televisa to acquire an increased ownership stake in the network.

Univision got its rule change in the final days of the Obama administration, however, nothing else has worked out in the network’s favor. Multiple rounds of firings have neither alleviated Univision’s structural problems nor made the network any more attractive to potential investors.

Instead of addressing its content problems, Univision appears poised to blow it all up: first by hiring an outside consultant to recommend changes, and by floating the idea of selling its digital portfolio including, amazingly, Fusion.

Univision’s fundamental problem is its content, which fewer people want to see - whether it is a news division interested only in scrutinizing Republicans, a digital imprint dedicated exclusively to liberal Millenials, or its staggering $300 million per year content deal with Televisa that hangs like a millstone around the network’s neck.

Univision won’t recover until it addresses both its biased content, and the person in charge of its content, both of which have been dragging the network down. Unfortunately, if Univision’s past behavior is any future indicator, we should expect to hear news of Isaac Lee’s promotion to CEO any minute now.

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Jorge Bonilla's picture

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