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Univision Radio cuts dozens of workers, centralizes programming

Univision Communications is restructuring its radio division, eliminating dozens of workers at stations around the country as the company centralizes its programming functions.

Univision confirmed Thursday that there had been layoffs, but it declined to say how many people had lost their jobs as part of this week's realignment.

The nation's largest Spanish-language media company, which owns 68 radio stations, this week began trimming programming staff and some on-air hosts, including in Chicago, in an effort to cut costs.

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Rather than rely on staff at the various stations, the company instead is creating three programming centers -- in Los Angeles, San Antonio and Miami -- to produce entertainment for the station chain.

“The content teams ... will provide customized and localized content across all of our markets, digital, and beyond,” Jose Valle, president of Univision Radio, said this week in an open letter distributed by Univision.

Stations will continue to employ local staff members to work with advertisers.

“Local promotions and activation teams, as well as local DJs, will continue serving clients and local audiences in each and every market,” Valle wrote.

The privately held Univision has been reviewing its operations in advance of a planned public offering of its stock, which could come this year or early next year.

Some of the company's owners have been looking for an exit, according to knowledgeable people who declined to be identified discussing internal matters.

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Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban and four private equity firms acquired Univision in 2007 in a leveraged buyout that left the company laden with $10 billion in debt.

Soon after their purchase, the Great Recession hit and the advertising market collapsed.

In addition, during the last few years, there have been dramatic shifts in consumer behavior as more people turn to the Internet and their phones to watch videos and listen to music.

Univision plans to steer some of the cost savings into its recently launched digital music service called Uforia.

Univision has been grappling with changes just like its counterparts in English-language media. However, despite a partial economic recovery, advertisers have not significantly expanded their budgets to buy more commercial time on Spanish-language radio -- despite the immense popularity of the medium among Latinos.

Last year, Univision Radio generated nearly $330 million in revenue, a 2% decline from the previous year. However, the division produced $110 million in operating income in 2013, an increase of 8% over 2012.

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Overall, Univision generated $2.6 billion in revenue last year, an increase of 8%.  More than three-quarters of the company's revenue comes from its television operations.

Last fall, Univision began testing its new centralized model after the high-profile departure of its formerly top-rated morning show host Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo from the company’s Los Angeles station, KSCA-FM (101.9).

Sotelo left Univision in July after a producer on his show accused Sotelo of sexually harassing him, a charge that Sotelo has denied.

Rather than hire a single host to replace Sotelo, who was earning more than $1 million annually, Univision in October formed a team of three hosts to produce a lively show featuring popular Mexican regional music.

The morning program, called “El Bueno, La Mala y El Feo” (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) is broadcast from Univision's studios in the Westchester section of Los Angeles and distributed to other Univision stations.

Already, the show has climbed to the top of the ratings in five markets -- L.A., Houston, Chicago, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth -- during its time period among the important demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49, Valle said in his message.

"We are no longer limited by our coverage map," Valle said. "And we, as an industry, must adapt and make the needed changes to ensure that we continue to deliver for our listeners and advertisers."

ALSO:

Univision Radio launches 'good, bad, ugly' radio show in L.A.

Raul Gonzalez, longtime Univision star, jumps to Telemundo

Univision to develop merchandise featuring Mexican star Pedro Infante

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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