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Univision Shakeup Claims Local Media Chief

What a difference four months makes.

In mid-July, the Hispanic television industry was abuzz over Univision Communications’s expected initial public offering, a deal expected to raise at least $1 billion and that valued the Hispanic-media giant at nearly $20 billion, including debt.

But that IPO, which many observers expected in mid-October, has yet to happen. “Media world turbulence” was the headline the Los Angeles Times put on the situation, as institutional investors lost confidence in in the media sector and started selling off shares just as Univision set its IPO.

Univision was also the subject of controversy regarding an ongoing spat between the network’s news division and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

But there’s another disadvantage Univision faces: Its stable of properties doesn’t include an English-language media brand in a climate where advertisers are rapidly shifting focus — and budgets — to “total-market” approaches. Thus, an advertiser can made a deal with rivals such as ESPN and NBCUniversal and reach English- and Spanish-speaking consumers with the same buy.

Univision is a Spanish-language pure play, with Fusion — the English-language millennial focused network operated in partnership with ABC — its lone option for a brand manager or CMO looking for 360-degree consumer penetration with Latinos.

Thus, the likelihood of an IPO from Univision, which saw a net operating loss of close to $178 million during the first half of fiscal 2015 and has a reported debt of roughly $10.3 billion, has shrunk.

So have Univision’s executive ranks.

Univision on Oct. 21 said it promoted John W. Eck, its executive VP of technology, operations and engineering since 2011, to chief local media officer. He’ll now oversee the company’s 128 owned-and-operated TV and radio stations.

As a result, president of local media Kevin Cuddihy “has stepped down” and will work with Eck through a transition period set to last the next several weeks, Univision said.

Cuddihy, whose LinkedIn profile says he has “a record of increasing revenue and market share” and is a “progressive, inclusive leader,” became Univision’s president of local media in August 2014 after six years as president of the network’s O&O TV stations. He joined Univision in 2008 after seven years as a senior VP at Comcast Spotlight. Cuddihy has also been a local-market GM for several CBS-owned television stations, including WWJ-TV in Detroit and WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.

“We want to thank Kevin for his many contributions to the company and are grateful for the work he has done to make our stations the go-to source for local news and entertainment,” Univision CEO Randy Falco said in prepared statement.

Supporting Eck in his new role is Univision senior vice president of local media sales Dominic Fails, who was promoted from VP and director of sales at Univision’s Chicago station, WGBO.

Prior to that, he served as VP of corporate sales for Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcast Group. Fails had also led sales for Telemundo-owned stations KTMD-TV in Houston and KVDA-TV in San Antonio.