Despite having spent the last several years expanding its content divisions, Hispanic broadcasting giant Univision is soliciting buyout offers according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal. The network controls a huge majority of Hispanic broadcast viewership—as much as 60 percent—and has an exclusive deal with Mexican production house Grupo Televisa, which generates content that is popular both across South and Central America and Mexico, and among cultures of first- and second-generation immigrants from countries in those regions.
And now it can be yours for a mere $20 billion. The company's controlling investors are said to be asking that much for the company, though the price appears to be prohibitive.
It's worth asking exactly how leveraged Univision is at the moment, especially with that kind of price tag. A couple of points of comparison: George Lucas's Star Wars franchise, Marvel Comics and Pixar all sold for about $4 billion in the last few years. Rumor puts Hasbro's buy-in for cable network The Hub at $2 billion, and that's considered a bum deal for the toy company.
As incredible as that 60 percent share sounds, it's also worth noting that the company has lost a chunk of its market dominance to upstarts like NBCUniversal's Telemundo, long an underfunded asset at the media company and now a major area of investment as programs like Hispanics at NBCU have tried to drive ad dollars that arrived when Hispanic consumers became a major focus for clients and agencies in the wake of the 2010 census, which proclaimed a hitherto-unknown (to the ad industry, at least) increase in the Spanish-speaking population of the U.S.
Recently, Univision has made an effort to promote ventures like Galavision, one of its cable networks, and La Fabrica (The Factory), a digital content house meant to produce content for platforms beyond broadcast and linear entertainment. The network also has a stake in Robert Rodriguez's cable network El Rey, and announced a new series exec produced by Simon Cowell at its upfront.
Then there's Fusion, its cable news network with ABC, its ramp-up in its consumer products division… all in all, there are plenty of reasons Univision would be a pricey package, but quite a few of them have to do with its multiple partnerships and initiatives. Bankrolling the company at the moment would be a major act of faith in its current management's decisions, and it also would be at odds with its other potential revenue-getting venture: taking the company public next year. Regulators prevent Grupo Televisa from buying a majority stake in the company—Televisa is by far the larger partner—because of rules preventing foreign ownership of more than 25 percent of a broadcaster.
Univision declined to comment on the news.