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Univision's second-quarter profit soars with World Cup soccer

Univision Communications' second-quarter profit doubles compared to previous year
Univision makes a nearly $20-million profit on World Cup soccer

Boosted by the popularity of its soccer telecasts, Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications' second-quarter profit more than doubled compared to the previous year.

For the quarter ended June 30, Univision posted net income of $98 million -- up from $40.7 million in the second quarter of 2013. 

Revenue climbed 23% to $833.7 million for the quarter.

The privately held company, owned by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban and a consortium of private equity firms, has been steadily improving its financial performance by recruiting new TV advertisers, collecting programming fees from pay-TV operators and cutting costs.

Saban and the other equity firms have been searching for an exit in their seven-year investment in Univision.

However, the company's operating officers did not shed light on the ownership group's plans during an earnings call Tuesday with analysts.

Instead, Chief Executive Randy Falco and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Hobson detailed the company's particularly strong quarter, which culminated with Univision's broadcasts of the FIFA World Cup. 

The monthlong tournament, which began in mid-June, generated blockbuster ratings and showcased Univision's growing digital business.

Thousands of fans downloaded Univision's sports app so they could watch early rounds of the World Cup tournament on their smartphones.

"This event demonstrated Univision’s ability to execute on its goals and strategy of delivering a Univision branded experience everywhere its audience is," Falco said. "It’s also been truly illustrative of the company’s transformation into a multimedia powerhouse."

The World Cup generated $174 million in revenue for Univision, and a profit of $19.8 million. 

Univision's goal heading into the tournament was simply to break even because of the huge costs associated with sending hundreds of people to Brazil to provide TV coverage of the event. Despite expenses that exceeded $150 million, the company was able to turn a profit.

Univision, however, warned that advertising during the third quarter would be weaker than in the second quarter. The reason: many advertisers blew their wads during the World Cup, and have been cutting back on spending during the current quarter.

Second-quarter television revenue was up 26% to $713.9 million. Digital media revenue more than doubled to $44.2 million.  However, radio revenue fell 15.7% to $75.6 million. 

Hobson attributed some of the radio ad declines to the departure of Univision's former radio star Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo. 

A perennial ratings magnet, Sotelo left Univision in July 2013 after a co-worker alleged that Sotelo had sexually harassed him, a charge that Sotelo has long denied.

Univision radio stations saw ad revenue plummet after Sotelo and Univision ended their relationship. But Hobson noted: "But we saved a lot of money doing it."

Univision Radio's recently introduced Los Angeles-based morning drive-time show "El Bueno, la Mala y el Feo" ("The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") has been climbing in the ratings. Hobson said the company's radio stations should rebound by year's end as the show continues to gain traction.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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