Declining and Deported Audiences Lead to Cutbacks at Telemundo, Univision

March 15th, 2018 5:01 PM

The nation's leading Spanish-language television networks, Univision and Telemundo, continue to pay the price for doubling and tripling down on pushing unfettered immigration policies, and declining numbers have now led to layoffs and more.

Here's how Daniel Shoer Roth chronicled the latest wave of layoffs for the Miami Herald:

Tears, fears, frustrations, intrigue and painful farewells — they are the ingredients of any good telenovela. But on Friday, those emotions broke free from the land of fiction and into the lives of the employees of the main Spanish language television networks in the United States as layoffs and restructuring hit both companies and their Miami offices.

At Telemundo, more than 150 employees were laid off. At Univision, the number was about 20, though insiders say more may be coming. The number of layoffs does not reach the “mass layoff” threshold that would require the businesses to file Warn Notices with the state of Florida. Notices are required when a business lays off one-third of its personnel.

Uncertainty reigns as the industry falters and young bilingual Hispanics choose English television on demand.

The crisis even has top management baffled. Randy Falco, the CEO of Spanish-language television giant Univision Communications, unexpectedly announced his retirement last week — just four months after the company renewed his contract.

Falco's announced retirement follows the resignation of CFO Frank López-Balboa, who left in the aftermath of yet another failed IPO for Univision. Univision's future rode on this failed IPO until the Obama administration granted an FCC rule change that allowed Mexican media giant Televisa to increase its stake in the network. But the IPO was still necessary in order to allow its current shareholder group, led by Executive Chairman Haim Saban, to cut their losses and bail out.

Telemundo is on safer footing as a Comcast subsidiary, but is still exposed to losses and uncertainty due to a declining viewer universe that it must share with Univision.

It is the Los Angeles Times that hits the nail on the head here, when explaining the real reasons why viewership is declining at our domestic Spanish-language networks.  

Complicating the picture for Univision's owners has been a change in demographics and President Trump's stand on immigration. The president has been hostile to immigrants, including those from Mexico who have long made up a large part of Univision's audience. The Trump administration's crack-down on immigrants — and the promise of a border wall — has discouraged new arrivals.

Immigration has long fueled the audience for Univision's television networks and radio stations. But growth in the Latino population increasingly has come from people born in the U.S. who are fluent in English and watch major television networks — not just the Spanish-language outlets.

We've long pointed out that the preservation of a broken immigration system with a porous border is critical to the survival of these networks. In fact, here's Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos making that very argument almost three years ago:



JORGE RAMOS: I think the future of Spanish-language media is assured for decades, simply, for a very simple reason: In spite of the fact that the majority of the growth within the Hispanic community is coming from people being born here, we still have one to two million immigrants, legally and illegally coming in every single year. Most of them speak Spanish. So, therefore, we have a market that is growing and growing.

As we said, that was three years ago. But a recent interview with Al Día suggests that Ramos still doesn't get it:

According to Ramos, there will continue to be an audience for Spanish language news as long as immigrants from Latin America continue to enter the country in the numbers that they do. The longtime anchor said he’s confident that this will remain the case for the next 25 years or so, but it may be a different story in 50 to 75 years.

Immigration uncertainty has roiled this media market - and yet they refuse to acknowledge that or make adjustments in order to serve the audience that is in place. What this financial turmoil reveals is what MRC Latino has been saying since its inception - that so long as the Spanish-language networks (Telemundo still less so than Univision) continue to operate with a business-model bias towards driving practically unrestrainted immigration and other left-wing policies at all costs, they will continue to falter and fail.

Exit question regarding Univision: At what point does the architect of the network's radicalization and decline and principal overseer of the newscasts, telenovelas and other shows that fewer people seem to want to see - Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee - begin to bear responsibility for Univision's failures?