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October 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In a deal that could bring Univision’s popular telenovelas to the Internet, Mexico’s Televisa Group has agreed to invest $1.2 billion in the U.S. Spanish-language network in return for at least 5 percent of the company and a new licensing agreement for its programming through 2025. In 2006, Televisa sought to buy Univision but lost out to an investor group headed by media investor Haim Saban. But Saban’s victory came at a heavy price — a debt load that has inhibited expansion and forced cutbacks even at a time when ratings and ad sales were soaring. The deal will now allow Televisa to purchase Univision debt and convert it into equity, but the amount of debt Televisa will be allowed to acquire under U.S. law remains iffy. Foreign investors are permitted to own no more than 25 percent of U.S. broadcasting companies. Still, as several analysts observed Tuesday, Televisa’s investment helps rescue Saban and his partners from a crushing debt load and could allow them to refinance at least part of it. The battle over Univision also resulted in sometimes hostile relations between Televisa Chairman Emilio Azcarraga Jean and Saban. Televisa had refused to allow Univision to stream its programs on the Internet — thereby cutting off a potentially lucrative revenue source. But both sides now appear satisfied that they can now move forward productively together. In an interview with today’s (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, Saban remarked, “This is one of those rare instances in which a deal is accretive to both sides of the table. It is a match made in heaven.”