Univision grew OIBDA even as revenues fell


Q1 revenues declined 12% for Univision to $410.e million, with TV down 8.7% to $336.3 million and radio off 26.1% to $66.5 million. However, operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) was up 14.6% for TV to $145.1 million and 3.5% for the total company to $153.8 million, but down 54.2% for radio to $10.3 million.

Univision doesn’t break out TV numbers for its network operations and O&O station group, but CFO Andrew Hobson confirmed that the O&Os were down more than the network side, with local worse than national – mirroring the situation seen at the company’s radio stations.

In additional to cyclical political advertising, Univision TV revenues are sharply impacted by the timing of major soccer tournaments. Excluding sports and political, Hobson said Q1 TV revenues were down 7.7% and EBITDA up 18.5%.

CEO Joe Uva, who seldom appears on the quarterly conference calls, talked about the company’s “more focused, one-on-one approach” to the TV network Upfront. “Despite the overall softness in the market, there are pockets of clients who are actively shifting dollars to Spanish-language advertising from English. And importantly, once those advertisers come to Univision and see the results, they seldom leave,” he told analysts.

Uva had a success story to tell, with General Mills significantly increasing their spending in Spanish language media last year – “and 100% of it went to Univision.” Uva said “Honey Nut Cheerios saw a 37% increase in sales directly attributed to the Spanish-language marketing effort.”

On the radio side, Uva was not happy with Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings. He charged that audience estimates for minority-targeted stations have decreased under PPM “due to flaws in their methodology,” adding that “it’s not a flaw with electronic measurement, per se, which everybody agrees is a more accurate way to go, but Arbitron’s sampling and construct and the difference in the response rate leaves a lot to be desired.” Uva noted the agreements that Arbitron has struck with several state Attorneys General to improve PPM samples.

According to Uva, Arbitron “is in the process of complying” with the settlement struck with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo “but much more slowly than we would hope.”

“And I can tell you that we and other members of the Spanish Radio Association, as well as NABOB, which represents the African-American broadcasters, are lobbying the Hill extensively to see if we can’t get Arbitron to make the changes that are required sooner, rather than later,” Uva said.