Univision swung to a loss in the fourth quarter, blaming a downturn in revenue in part on a months-long carriage dispute with Dish, but CEO Vince Sadusky expressed guarded optimism about a resolution to the impasse during a conference call with analysts.
Univision posted an operating loss of $40.2 million, compared with income of $390 million in the year-earlier quarter. Total revenue decreased 8.9% to $688.5 million from $755.5 million.
With a massive executive turnover now behind it, Univision has continued to face disruption to its operations in 2019 due to the Dish battle. The flagship Univision broadcast network went dark on the satellite operator last June, with sports network Univision Deportes following suit in October.
“We continue to have discussions with Dish,” said CEO Vince Sadusky, who succeeded Randy Falco in the top job just as the Dish contract was about to expire. “It’s clear not doing a deal is harmful to both companies. It’s down to a matter of value.”
Research from Nielsen data and other sources indicates a “large number” of Dish subscribers have migrated to other pay-TV providers, Sadusky said. Dish on Wednesday reported a quarterly loss of 334,000 subscribers, compared with a net gain in the year-earlier quarter, as it tussles with both Univision and HBO, which are both currently dark.
In addition to lost carriage fees from Dish, the company said advertising revenue in its Media Networks unit dropped 6.6% to $337 million, which the company blamed on softer spending in the retail, telecom and automotive sectors. Some of the ad downturn stemmed from the non-cash impact of audience guarantees from viewership declines. Without the audience guarantees, Univision said, ad revenue would have been flat with the same quarter in 2017.
A perennial ratings power for decades, Univision has in recent years encountered stiffer ratings competition than ever from NBCUniversal-owned rival Telemundo. The company, which was acquired in 2007 by private equity firms Saban Capital, Madison Dearborn, Providence, Thomas H Lee and TPG, is returning to its Spanish-language roots. Falco’s regime saw it add assets like the Fusion cable network, a co-venture at launch with ABC, as well as English-language websites like the Gizmodo portfolio.