The recession and associated write-downs, a settlement over a breach-of-contract dispute with Grupo Televisa and investment losses all took a hefty toll on Univision's bottom line in 2008.
The Spanish-language media company today reported a fourth-quarter net loss of almost $2 billion versus a $201 million loss for Q4 2007.
The media company's full-year loss totaled $5.1 billion, compared to a net loss of $315 million in 2007.
Net revenue in Q4 was down about 8 percent to $502 million. For the full year, revenue was down almost 3 percent to $2.02 billion.
Total "impairment" charges for the year came to $5.4 billion, including a $1.6 billion charge taken in the fourth quarter. Total investment losses for the year were $163 million, while it cost more than $610 million to settle a lawsuit with Televisa, the Mexican producer that supplies a significant amount of the network's programming. Univision CFO Andrew Hobson said most of the settlement would be paid in the form of ads on Univision properties over several years.
Hobson said the first quarter of this year was also tough and "we expect the entire year to be tough," due largely to challenges in the auto and retail sectors. How quickly a recovery takes place in terms of ads will depend a lot on how the U.S. auto business re-invents itself, Hobson told financial analysts on a conference call. But the base of local dealerships is likely to remain significantly smaller going forward, he said, noting that in some markets where Univision has local TV stations, 40 percent of the dealerships have gone out of business.
Hobson also confirmed that the company had "a couple" of rounds of layoffs this year, but does not expect to make additional staff cuts in the foreseeable future. He did not say how many people were axed.
Univision CEO Joe Uva did not participate on the conference call but said in a statement that the Q4 results "reflect an operating environment that was among the most difficult we have seen across most industries."
One bright spot, representing incremental revenue: the company has negotiated dozens of retransmission consent agreements with cable companies (including three of the top four U.S. system operators), as well as with DirecTV and AT&T. On the call, Hobson said most of the deals range between three and six years and will generated in excess of $100 million in additional cash for the company annually.