EXCLUSIVE: As the top-to-bottom overhaul of Univision continues apace, the latest executive headed for the exits is Chief Revenue Officer Tonia O’Connor, Deadline has learned.
O’Connor was promoted in 2017 to the revenue role, which was a newly created position for the company. She had previously served as Chief Commercial Officer and President of Content Distribution. In a 10-year career at the company, O’Connor helped oversee the launches of several new networks including Univision Deportes, now a top-three sports operation capable of beating ESPN on a given day.
“Univision is a uniquely positioned company, unlike any other brand,” O’Connor said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of helping transform Univision into a media powerhouse – with the most loyal audience and billions in enterprise value. I will always treasure my experience and colleagues from Univision, which I will carry with me as I take on new challenges and continue to make an impact.”
Since taking the CEO reins a couple of months ago from Randy Falco, whose retirement timetable was accelerated after he signed a contract extension, Vince Sadusky has wasted no time making moves. This month alone, Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee and head of programming Lourdes Diaz have both left. The portfolio of websites acquired in recent years as a signature feature of Falco’s vision — among them The Onion, the Root and the Gizmodo Network — has also gone on the block.
Restlessness has set in at the privately held media company in recent months, leading to the makeover. Seeing regular ratings wins by resurgent rival Telemundo (once an also-ran) and a host of other secular challenges, investors gradually became impatient with the strategy implemented by Falco, a longtime former NBC executive. Plans for an IPO were abruptly scrapped, and the company also engaged a consultant to review operations and identify areas where expenses could be trimmed.
Among the network launches O’Connor played a role in was that of the Univision-backed El Rey, the English-language network aimed at cross-cultural audiences.
El Rey’s expansion to 40 million homes in its first four years on the air “was primarily achieved through the leadership, partnership and tenacity of Tonia and her team,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “She is fearless in her deal making and navigated the disruptive marketplace without ever compromising our company’s values or mission.”
In 2007, Univision was taken private in a $13.7 billion transaction involving a collection of private equity firms, among them Saban Capital Group, TPG, Thomas H. Lee, Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners.
The next year, O’Connor joined the company during a time of intense headwinds for the media business as the economic crisis ravaged advertising spending along with the economy as a whole. At that time, Univision had been the longtime ratings leader in U.S. Hispanic television, thriving on a supply of traditional telenovelas. Even before NBCUniversal took control of Telemundo and began a turnaround effort, executives at Univision recognized the need to explore digital and streaming platforms. O’Connor was involved in those efforts from an early stage, leading the direct-to-consumer strategy of Univision Now and creating a distribution revenue operation from scratch that now brings in $1 billion a year.
A statement from Univision’s board, which is chaired by Haim Saban, described O’Connor as “a key figure in transforming Univision from a niche media asset into a major player in the U.S. media landscape.”