Applying Unique Local Vision to Spanish-Language Giant

Kevin Cuddihy has one of the most varied resumes in the industry, and that doesn’t even include his days operating a pirate radio station in Minneapolis. Cuddihy was about10 years old when he and his next-door neighbor bought a transmitter at Radio Shack, erected an antenna between their houses and rigged it up to a pair of 12-volt car batteries—extending their coverage area to 2½ miles.

Airing on weekends, the boys spun Top 40 hits and ran spots for a local strip mall in exchange for the shops airing “WSKC” for customers. When a $500 check arrived from Coca-Cola, Cuddihy and his partner sent it back. “Let’s be clear—we never made money,” he recalls with a laugh during an interview at Univision’s New York headquarters. “This was a hobby.”

Cuddihy has stuck with broadcasting, now reaching a far greater audience than those in a 2½-mile radius—and he no longer has to return checks. After a long career in both English-language broadcasting and cable, the president of Univision Television Group is inspired by the intense relationship Spanish-language broadcasters have with viewers. “We’re partners,” he says. “They call us not only about things like healthcare, but also about which doctors to go see. In many ways, we’re like a consulate to our viewers. That relationship just can’t be found in English-language television.”

Cuddihy is working hard to strengthen that relationship by expanding local news at Univision-owned stations while also honing social media strategy at the local level.

Randy Falco, Univision Communications president/CEO, says Cuddihy brings the right mix of traditional and newer media chops to the job. “I started in 1975, when service to your community was part of your brand,” Falco says. “Kevin is extraordinarily focused on that.”

The Twin Cities native got his professional start at hometown WCCO as an account executive, working his way up over the next decade to general sales manager. His first general manager job was at WWJ Detroit, before shifting to cable in 2001. Overseeing Detroit for Comcast, Cuddihy learned the nuances of selling a somewhat different product to marketers. “I told them, We had a relationship for 10- 20 years, we’ve taken care of you, we’ve made sure your clients are successful,” he says. “I’ll do the same thing here.”

Cuddihy eventually reached the position of senior VP of ad sales at Comcast Spotlight Sales. When a Univision higherup inquired if he knew anyone who might be interested in a similar post at the station group, Cuddihy did have someone in mind—himself. “It sounded pretty exciting. There was the 2010 Census and the World Cup,” he recalls. “I thought there was real opportunity to see rapid growth.”

After watching Cuddihy succeed in the ad sales role for two years, Falco made him group president. Falco credits Cuddihy for reinvigorating Univision’s local news operations and breaking down what he calls a “siloed” structure at Univision. “He’s opened the doors of communication between radio, network and his own group,” says Falco. “That’s been incredibly important to me.”

Cuddihy inked deals to get Bounce TV and Sony Pictures Television’s getTV on the stations’ subchannels and successfully petitioned Falco to extend late local news to 11:35 p.m. He is close to naming the group’s first social media manager, while also overseeing the rebranding of the sister TeleFutura stations to UniMás.

Several Univision stations, including KMEX Los Angeles and KXLN Houston, are ratings powerhouses. But they are more than that. The stations run phone banks from early evening through late news, addressing viewer concerns on everything from voter registration to immigration and healthcare legislation. KMEX’s annual education fair, where visitors walk through the process of preschool on up to graduate degrees, attracted 50,000 people last fall. “We go well beyond entertainment,” Cuddihy says. “We’re really about educating and informing and empowering.”

Cuddihy is based in Charlotte, N.C., but he travels about 50 weeks per year to study and share best practices in the group. He enjoys boating and skiing—but says it’s unlikely he’ll revisit his old pirate radio venture. “I think those days are probably behind me,” he says with a smile.

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.