Univision Chief Executive Randy Falco to retire as media company struggles

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

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.

New York-based Univision and its equity partner, Grupo Televisa of Mexico, also have seen their once popular telenovelas lose steam in the ratings. The two companies have been scrambling to better adjust to a more competitive environment and create content that is more relevant to the lives of U.S.-born Latinos.

Meanwhile, archrival Telemundo has gained traction in the market. Telemundo finished 2017 as the top-rated Spanish- language broadcast network in prime-time on weekday nights among the prized demographic of adults aged 18-49.

Telemundo will broadcast this year's World Cup, which has long been a signature event for Univision. Telemundo, which is owned by NBCUniversal, outbid Univision the last time the World Cup rights were available. The big-ticket soccer event should give Telemundo an audience bounce this summer.

In addition, cord-cutting has accelerated in the last three years, affecting all television programmers. Now Univision must compete against Telemundo and streaming services including Netflix and Hulu.

Univision's revenue in the fourth quarter fell nearly 8 percent to $780.7 million compared to $846.5 million during the same period a year ago.

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Univision has significant operations in Los Angeles, including its flagship television station KMEX-TV Channel 34. But two years ago, the company sold its prominent building that overlooks the 405 freeway in Los Angeles for $102 million to real estate firm CBRE Global Investors.

During his tenure, Falco, a former top NBC and AOL executive, has added cable channels such as Univision Deportes Network, overhauled operations and launched streaming services to diversify Univision's revenue.

"During his time as CEO he has modernized the Univision organization, grown earnings and reduced debt at record levels and we could not be more pleased with his performance," Saban said, noting that Falco will assist as the company begins its restructuring.

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