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Spanish-language TV giant Univision launches streaming service as competition heats up

A sidelong view of Univision's glassy building along the 405 Freeway in Westchester.
Univision’s building in Westchester.
(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

Univision Communications is making an ambitious push into streaming with PrendeTV, an advertising-supported Spanish-language service with more than three dozen live television channels and a deep library of on-demand programs.

Tuesday’s launch of PrendeTV follows three months after a new ownership group took control of Univision with a goal of returning the storied Spanish-language broadcaster to prominence. The company stumbled during its 14-year ownership by private equity investors who were slow to recognize generational changes in TV viewership — and the rise of Netflix.

Univision, now based in Miami, is promoting PrendeTV as the first U.S. streaming service stocked entirely with Spanish-language programming.

Unlike many of its competitors — including Netflix, FuboTV, Sling TV and AT&T TV — the PrendeTV app can be downloaded and watched for free. Univision believes ad-supported platforms will have the biggest potential for growth, and it has signed up such major advertisers as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Chase bank and Walmart to help support the programming, according to Univision’s president and chief transformation officer, Pierluigi Gazzolo.

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Univision’s high-stakes gamble on streaming comes amid declines in traditional television viewership. Its longtime rival, Telemundo, also is seeking to engage Latinos with its offerings on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, which is available to consumers for $4.99 a month.

In an interview, Univision’s Gazzolo declined to provide the company’s estimates for the potential number of the service’s users.

“I don’t want to give figures yet, but it will be aggressive — and it will be in the millions,” Gazzolo said. “The launch of PrendeTV is a significant and new transformation of Univision. We are going to be chasing for the same share of audience that we have had with television, but now in the streaming world.”

While not the powerhouse it used to be, Spanish-language media giant Univision continues to reach an important demographic: Latinos.

At launch, the service will offer more than 40 entertainment channels, including movies, sports and children’s programming. It also will have 11,000 hours of on-demand library content, which includes shows from Univision and Mexico City-based Grupo Televisa (a minority owner of Univision), as well as Brooklyn-based FilmRise and international powerhouses Caracol TV in Colombia and Rede Globo in Brazil.

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Prende (which in English means to “turn on”) will eventually have more than 150 films from Hollywood studios, including Walt Disney Co., Lionsgate and MGM.

At launch, the service will have nine telenovela channels; seven movie channels, including “Cine Boom” and “Cine Hollywood”; and three family channels. It also will offer soccer channels including “Liga Mex” and “Futbol Europeo.” And it will offer a nature and wildlife channel from Blue Ant Media called “Love Nature.”

PrendeTV will be available to users of Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and iPhone, as well as Google’s Android phones and TV. Univision said it has completed a distribution deal with Roku, paving the way for the service to be available through Roku devices.

More than 63 million strong, Latinos make up 19% of the U.S. population. With such a large market, former Viacom executive Wade Davis and private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners saw great potential in turning Univision around. Davis and Searchlight Capital Partners in February 2020 announced that they would acquire the majority stake in Univision from the private equity group that included Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban.

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Davis, now chief executive of Univision, brought his former Viacom colleague, Gazzolo, who previously ran Viacom International’s networks and streaming arm, to the team.

This isn’t Univision’s first foray into streaming. The broadcaster previously experimented with platforms devoted to the company’s programming, including its melodramatic soap operas. And nearly two months ago, Univision bought another ad-supported independent streaming platform — VIX TV — which has over 20,000 hours of Spanish-language programming. Univision plans to combine VIX with PrendeTV.

For now, PrendeTV will be available only in the U.S.

“As our streaming ambitions grow, we would like to take it globally,” Gazzolo said.


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