Univision Communications snapped up rival Telemundo Network’s hit show “Betty La Fea” in one of two deals the dominant U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster signed with South American program producers.
Looking to guarantee a larger pipeline of programming to fill its planned second broadcast network, Univision has signed separate output-of-programming deals with Venezuela’s Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) and Colombia’s RCN Television.
The five-year output deal with RCN Television gives Univision more than 300 hours of telenovela programming and comes at the expense of a previous agreement RCN had with U.S.-based Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo. RCN’s production of “Betty La Fea” helped propel upstart Telemundo’s ratings this season, but the new deal with Univision gives the latter rights to that telenovela and its sequel, “Eco Moda.”
Univision’s output deal with RCTV, which is not affiliated with RCN, gives it rights to more than 800 hours of first-run novelas in addition to game shows, comedies and other programming over the next 10 years. Both output deals are expected to feed programming to Univision’s yet-to-be-named second network (due to launch in 2002), the Univision Network itself, Galavision and its Puerto Rico-based Tele-Once and Super Siete channels.
In addition to other RCTV programming in various genres that now will come into the Univision pipeline, the top-rated U.S. Spanish-language network (with just over 80 percent share of Hispanic viewership) will get rights to about 1,200 hours of RCTV’s library of novelas from 1999 and 2000 that will be first-run on Univision.
“Again, this was not done to hurt Telemundo but has to do with guaranteeing a flow of additional programming for the two Univision Networks, Galavision [on cable] and our Puerto Rican channels,” said Mario Rodriquez, president of entertainment for Univision.
If anything, Mr. Rodriquez said, the output deals with RCN and RCTV could be seen as “insurance” in the event Univision cannot strike a second-network programming deal with longtime Mexican programming supplier Grupo Televisa. Earlier this month, talks between Grupo Televisa and Univision broke down when Grupo Televisa sought a larger financial interest and higher license fees for programming destined for the second Univision network.
As Mr. Rodriguez noted, Grupo Televisa, a minority shareholder in Univision, is contractually tied to a 25-year programming output deal (sealed in 1992), which makes it the predominant supplier to Univision’s flagship network through 2017.
“The only issue [with Televisa] is over the second network, which as of now does not have access to the Televisa product,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who nonetheless expressed hopes of ironing out a deal with the Mexico City-based production giant.
Meanwhile, executives at English-language media giant Viacom were unreachable to confirm or deny published reports that the company may want to acquire a controlling interest in Telemundo from partners Sony Corp. of America and AT&T’s Liberty Media Group. Speculation is that Sony and Liberty, among other partners, may be willing to sell Telemundo for more than $4 billion.
However, various media analysts say that Viacom could find going after Telemundo and its station group problematic on the regulatory front given that the communications giant is still going through various regulatory approvals for its ownership of CBS and UPN, as well as its ownership of TV stations affiliated with both networks.
“If Viacom bought Telemundo, they’d have to contend with acquiring two more stations in Los Angeles, giving them a possible four-station quadropoly-staying within the duopoly rules is what Viacom is concerned with right now,” said a broadcast network executive who requested anonymity.