Hispanic media giant Univision Communications swung to a loss in the fourth quarter from a profit in the year ago period, as revenue inched up 4%.
The privately held company reported revenue in the period of $722.9 million, up from $692.9 million and a loss from continuing operations of $39.1 million. In the same period a year ago, the company had reported income of $93.9 million.
Univision is under new management after a group of investors led by former Viacom CFO Wade Davis acquired a 64% stake for $526 million. The deal, which closed last December, represented a significant discount from a 2007 takeover by a group of private equity firms. Mexico-based Televisa has retained the 36% ownership stake it took during the previous Univision regime.
Davis, who now runs Univision as CEO, said in the earnings release that the company “delivered meaningful year-over-year audience growth in primetime.” Those gains, he noted, came at a time when “major English-language broadcast networks and our closest Spanish-language competitor all reported audience declines.”
The increased audience did not bring corresponding gains from advertising, at least in the immediate term. Apart from an influx of $58.3 million in political spending during a 2020 election cycle that set records across the media business, Univision’s media networks division struggled. Covid-19 continued to affect the business, sending the division’s core advertising revenue down 6% to $315.2 million. In its earnings release, Univision mentioned automotive, media and entertainment, telecom, restaurants and financial services as categories affected by the pandemic.
Non-advertising revenue, from sources like subscriber fees and content licensing, was flat at $286.8 million.
Beginning in April 2020, the company said, it implemented Covid-19 cost-saving measures that amounted to $125 million in expense reductions compared with 2019 levels. (Variable program license fees and recurring costs for soccer rights are not part of those cuts, the company noted.) More belt-tightening could lie ahead as the company emerges from the worst of the pandemic, the earnings release warned. “Based on developing market conditions, additional actions may be required in 2021,” it said.