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New Univision Takes Shape

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NEW YORK As this year's upfront marketplace approaches, Univision, the once rigidly siloed Hispanic broadcast and radio company, has been restructured to resemble its counterparts in the English-language media -- many of which it is out-rating on certain nights in prime time among key younger demos.

"It's a new Univision," said David Lawenda, president of ad sales for Univision Communications. "In the past, a client had to have at least four conversations if they wanted to advertise across our properties. Now they can have just one. We are much more flexible, collaborative and solution oriented."

Lawenda said while Univision would hold its upfront in its traditional Wednesday slot (May 16), the pitch to buyers and clients would be more cross-platform-focused than ever before and include a proprietary Hispanic marketplace study that Univision conducted with assorted research firms.

Joining Univision last fall after several years at MTV Networks, Lawenda brought in Lisa McCarthy and Peter Lazarus in January to oversee cross-platform and TV network sales, respectively. McCarthy will facilitate buys across broadcast, cable, owned-and-operated TV stations, radio and online. Lazarus will oversee buys spanning all three Univision networks -- broadcast nets Univision and TeleFutura, as well as cable service Galavision.

While Univision takes in about three times as much revenue in the upfront than its rival Telemundo, Lawenda believes there is still a huge opportunity for growth. And much like Telemundo sales executives, Univision plans to sell the value of the Hispanic viewer rather than specifically going after its rival Hispanic network.

"We are hoping that we can capitalize on the $900 billion annual spending power of the Hispanic marketplace," Lawenda said. "Our mantra is every dollar invested in Univision by advertisers is a dollar invested in growth."

Bolstering Lawenda's sales pitch is that one of Univision's current prime-time novelas, Al Diablo con los Guapos (Down With the Beautiful), has consistently beaten several of the broadcast networks on several nights of the week in the key adults 18-34 demo.

Lawenda cites pharmaceuticals, financial services, automotive, packaged goods and personal care as areas where Univision is hoping to attract a significant number of new clients.

"We are currently going agency to agency and client by client to tell our story, and we have had some very deep upfront conversations already," Lawenda said, adding that he hopes to close some business earlier than in past years. "This year in particular it seems advertisers are also approaching us sooner because they are looking for an edge."

Media agencies have noticed the restructured sales approach and believe it will help Univision reap some additional benefits. "They have assembled a pretty impressive list of new sales talent and made the process more user-friendly," said John Swift, managing director who oversees all buying at media agency PHD. But Swift added that Univision's challenge is to convince an array of clients to shift dollars into Hispanic media for the first time.

Caleb Windover, svp, managing director of Forty-Two Degrees at MediaVest, a division of Starcom MediaVest Group Multicultural, said Univision's sales pitch is taking a more consumer-centric approach, which he believes is a plus. "If Univision can convince advertisers to move dollars into Hispanic media, it will get the lion's share of those dollars," Windover said.