Univision finally scores a buyer

Lisa Napoli Jun 27, 2006

TESS VIGELAND: Univision sprang an 11th-hour surprise on investors late last night. Most expected the Spanish-language network to accept a buyout bid from Mexico’s broadcasting giant Televisa. Instead, the Univision board said “si” to a more than $12 billion offer from a consortium led by US media mogul Haim Saban.

Univision operates 62 TV stations, 69 radio stations . . . and reaches 98 percent of Latino homes. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli looks at who’s coughing up the cash.

LISA NAPOLI: Let’s say you create the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, then you go into business with Rupert Murdoch, buy out a channel from Pat Robertson, and sell it to Disney. What do you do for an encore?

You swoop in with a big pile of cash to buy Univision. Its network audience often rivals the audiences of the major English-language networks, combined.

TV critic Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star says Haim Saban means business:

AARON BARNHART:“I mean, he’s been successful in everything he’s done. And if you look at his career, he’s really built his fortune out of identifying growing markets in television.”

Barnhart says who wouldn’t want to get their hands on a big piece of the growing Spanish media universe.

BARNHART:“It is caliente. This is an industry that has consistently grown at a double-digit rate at a time when over-the-air broadcasting has done well to remain flat.”

But Katy Bachman of Mediaweek is skeptical:

KATY BACHMAN:“So even though they’re pacing well ahead of Anglo companies, you know, how long is that going to continue?

Bachman thinks traditional media are going the way of the dodo. But she does see how Saban and the other private equity groups in the deal might want Univision for its parts. The media empire includes broadcast TV, cable TV, radio stations, music companies and an Internet site.

[MUSIC: “Go, Go Power Rangers” song]

Enough armor to strengthen the might of any superhero.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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