Univision Plans Spanish-Language Streaming Service Under New CEO

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Univision Communications Inc. plans to launch a fresh streaming service in the first half of next year, a bet by new leadership that the Spanish-language broadcaster can attract more viewers with a bigger online presence.

The service is expected to include advertising and rely heavily on the extensive library of Mexico’s Grupo Televisa SAB, a Univision investor and longtime programming supplier, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The service is a top priority for incoming Chief Executive Officer Wade Davis, who believes Hispanic audiences aren’t being served by the growing number of online video services. A Univision spokeswoman declined to comment.

Univision hasn’t decided on a price, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the project hasn’t been announced. It’s unlikely to feature current seasons of TV shows to avoid upsetting cable-TV distributors who pay for those rights, one person said.

Davis, a former chief financial officer of Viacom, is part of a group of private equity investors who agreed in February to buy a majority stake in Univision. The company expects the deal to close in the coming days.

In 2015, Univision launched a streaming service called Univision Now, which has live streams of Univision and its sister channel, UniMás, along with soccer highlights, horoscopes, news and telenovela recaps. But in Davis’s view, the company hasn’t pushed Univision Now aggressively enough and he wants a new service with more programming, one person said.

Less Sudsy

In recent years, Univision’s traditional telenovelas have lost some popularity, and the company has been fighting Telemundo for viewers. Univision leads its rival in both total viewers and in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic this season, though both networks have seen TV audiences decline from a year ago, adding pressure to build a new business in streaming.

At Viacom, Davis oversaw the acquisition of Pluto TV, a free streaming service whose viewership has grown dramatically during the pandemic. He’s also a former board member of Roku Inc., a major seller of streaming devices. In a February interview with Bloomberg News, Davis described the market for a Spanish-language streaming service as “wide open.”

But Univision will face competition for viewers from a growing number of Spanish-language programs on services like Netflix Inc. The streaming giant has more than 36 million subscribers in Latin America. It operates a production hub in Spain, and has produced more than a dozen original series in Spanish, including the popular crime drama “La Casa de Papel.”

Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S., has programming on Peacock, a new streaming service owned by its parent company, Comcast Corp.

Other streaming services targeting Hispanic viewers include Vix, a free service that counts Discovery Inc. as an investor, and Pantaya, a $5.99-a-month online joint venture between Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and Hemisphere Media Group Inc.

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