Univision Sizzles

In the middle of a sweltering New York City summer, Univision’s WXTV is hotter than a packed subway with a busted AC. Ratings for key newscasts and prime time entertainment are surging, and the Spanish-language station is even beating out some of its English-language rivals.

Indeed, Univision can hang with the general market. In July, WXTV boasted the second-highest-rated 6 p.m. news in the market among adults 18-49, behind WABC, and third in adults 25-54, according to Nielsen Media Research. At 11 p.m., the Univision station placed third in 18-49 behind WABC and WNBC but outperformed WCBS. Through two weeks in August, WXTV produced similarly strong results. At 6 p.m., it trailed WNBC and WCBS by two-tenths of a ratings point. In late news, WXTV tied WCBS for third place at 11 p.m. and even notched top ratings on several days in early August—a first for the station.

Other Univision stations are experiencing similar summertime success. In July, the network says, its stations ranked No. 1 in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Miami, and Fresno and Bakersfield, Calif., in the 18-49 demographic. While those wins are significant, July is considered the least important of the four key ratings periods, because the English-language broadcasters load up on reality and reruns, and fewer people are watching television. Univision programs originals throughout the year, which keeps ratings consistent.

But Univision can point to success in the crucial May book, too. In that ratings period, the network says, stations in Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, Bakersfield and Fresno were tops in the 18-49 demographic among both English- and Spanish-language stations.

The ratings news comes after Univision reported disappointing second-quarter financials. Media analysts had projected revenue to hit about $522 million, but the company logged $508.5 million. Its television unit, which includes the network and the Univision and Telefutura stations, garnered $354.7 million—off from estimates of $370.6 million. Univision says revenue inched up 1% at the network and 2% at the stations, but analysts called for 5%. The network blames a soft ad market.

Furious Growth

But the Hispanic market is growing furiously, and analysts expect Univision to rebound quickly. “Univision should benefit from rapid population and buying growth in the Hispanic demographic,” says Wachovia Capital Markets analyst Marci Ryvicker. “The company’s ratings momentum in all segments should also result in continued outperformance.”

In New York, where Hispanics make up 20% of the population, WXTV is already enjoying such growth. “The vitality of the market is driving our viewership,” says WXTV VP/General Manager Ramon Pineda. With WXTV and Telefutura station WFTY, Univision is New York’s dominant Spanish-language programmer.

Pineda says his station’s news is strengthened by a veteran anchor and some innovative features. Rafael Pineda (no relation), who co-hosts the 6 and 11 p.m. news, is New York’s longest-running anchor, in place since 1972. WXTV recently added an investigative team and a community-service feature called “A Tu Lado,” which translates to “At Your Side.”

Hearty prime time ratings help, too. Through the first two weeks of August, WXTV is leading all New York stations in prime time on weekdays with viewers 18-49 (202,000) and 25-54 (221,000). A red-hot novela, La Madrastra, is fueling its performance.

WXTV aims to duplicate the success of its sister stations in such markets as Los Angeles and Miami, which often are top-rated. In July, WLTV Miami-Ft. Lauderdale won 6 p.m. news, prime time and late news and grew ratings in each time period from a year ago. KMEX Los Angeles earned top marks in prime time and finished second to KABC in 6 p.m. news. At 11 p.m., KNBC grabbed higher ratings, but KMEX ranked No. 1 with viewers 18-49 and 25-54.

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