Another change in the broadcasting world appears to be on the horizon. Univision (which owns 65 local Spanish-language TV stations across the U.S., plus 58 local radio stations and national networks like TUDN and Fusion) has been holding sale talks for the last few months, and those now seem to be nearing a conclusion. Benjamin Mullin and Dana Cimilluca of The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Univision was in “exclusive talks” with a group involving former Viacom executive vice president and chief financial officer Wade Davis, with a possible valuation of around $10 billion including debt, and that “a deal for the broadcaster might finally be at hand.”
Meg James of The Los Angeles Times added more confirmation on this:
Univision Communications, the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, is nearing a sale to an investment group led by former Viacom executive Wade Davis, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Univision is in advanced negotiations to sell itself to the Davis group, which includes the private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners, according to the sources, who were not authorized to comment.
A deal could happen as early as next week, but the two sides continue to hash out key provisions of the deal.
While this isn’t closed yet, the valuation of around $10 billion is close to what Univision has reportedly been seeking. And that marks a substantial drop from the $13.7 billion billionaire Haim Saban and his private equity partners paid for the company back in 2007.
Of course, Univision has had some setbacks since then, including losing audience share and even World Cup rights to Telemundo. And their foray into English-language digital media with Gawker and The Onion didn’t appear to work out well for them; they bought the former Gawker sites for $135 million in 2016 in a bankruptcy auction, and also bought into The Onion and its associated properties that year for “less than $200 million” for a 40 percent stake, then sold those sites to Great Hill Partners last year for “much less” than what they paid. They’ve also had some carriage challenges, including a dispute with Dish, and that’s hurt their revenue. But they’ve still found some success on other fronts, especially on the sports front with various soccer programming (including the UEFA Champions League, Liga MX, and MLS) and with Combate Americas. Last summer saw Univision team up more closely with Mexico’s Grupo Televisa to rebrand Univision Deportes as TUDN, sharing content and expanding their sports programming.
It’s unclear what a change in ownership could mean for Univision’s sports content, as a lot depends on what the new owners decide to invest in. But sports programming, and soccer in particular, appears to be one of the better-performing parts of Univision’s current approach, and it remains to see if their focus will pivot following a sale.
[The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times; photo of Univision’s LA headquarters from biorealty.com]