By Jennifer Pendleton
Special to TelevisionWeek
Ray Rodriguez is president and chief operating officer of Univision Communications, parent of the United States’ fast-growing Spanish-language television network, the broadcast challenger that has ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC looking into their rearview mirrors as the U.S. Hispanic population explodes.
His job, which also puts him in charge of the cable network Galavision, the broadcast network TeleFutura, Univision Online, Univision Radio and Univision Music Group, makes Mr. Rodriguez a very powerful player in Spanish-language media.
Not bad for an immigrant who came to the United States as a child in 1960, one of the throng that fled Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power. At the time the Rodriguez family had only $300 to its name.
Mr. Rodriguez joined Univision in 1990 as VP and director of talent relations after six years shaping and managing the career of crooner Julio Iglesias. That was before Hallmark Corp. sold the company in 1992 to the press-shy mogul A. Jerrold Perenchio and partners Grupo Televisa of Mexico and Venevision of Venezuela.
Mr. Rodriguez survived the transition and became a key lieutenant to Mr. Perenchio. He moved up the corporate ladder during a decade in which Univision evolved from an also-ran into a key buy with advertisers intent on reaching U.S. Hispanics, whose numbers were growing. In 1992 Mr. Rodriguez was named president of the Univision Network and began to overhaul the network’s programming. “Under Ray’s stewardship Univision is not only on top in Spanish-language TV but now, in the latest ratings, it’s starting to challenge the top [mainstream] networks,” said Leslie Pantin, principal of Pantin/Beber Silverstein Public Relations in Miami, a promotion firm that has handled Univision projects in the past.
This season, among all U.S. networks, both Spanish- and English-language, Univision has frequently ranked No. 1 among 18- to 34-year-old viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, that is the demographic that is most appealing to advertisers.
By all reports, Mr. Rodriguez is a demanding taskmaster who keeps close tabs on the bottom line. An accountant by training, the University of Miami graduate previously worked as a financial consultant with Deloitte Haskin & Sells.
Mr. Rodriguez’ recent elevation came amid controversy. Emil Azcarraga Jean, Grupo Televisa’s chairman, president and CEO, recently resigned as Univision vice chairman and filed a breach-of-contract suit over television royalties, fueling speculation that a takeover fight may be brewing. Published reports say Televisa’s chief is fuming because Mr. Perenchio appointed Mr. Rodriguez without consulting him.
As is often the case with Mr. Perenchio’s employees, Mr. Rodriguez was unavailable for comment.
Title: President and COO, Univision Communications
How long in current position: Since February 2005
Year of birth: 1951
Place of birth: Camaguey, Cuba
Who knew? As a young man, Mr. Rodriguez aspired to be a doctor.