Univision is a North American Spanish-language free-to-air television network that is owned by Univision Communications. It is the country’s largest provider of Spanish-language content, followed by American competitor Telemundo. The network’s programming is aimed at the Latino public and includes telenovelas and other drama series, sports, sitcoms, reality and variety series, news programming, and imported Spanish-language feature films.
Univision is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, and has its major studios, production facilities, and business operations based in Doral, Florida (near Miami). Univision is available on pay television providers throughout most of the United States, with local stations in over 60 markets with large Latin American communities.
Most of these stations air full local newscasts and other local programming in addition to network shows; in major markets such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City, the local newscasts carried by the network’s owned-and-operated stations are equally competitive with their English language counterparts ratings-wise.
Chief operating officer Randy Falco (who was appointed to the position on January 18, 2011, and officially took over as CEO on June 29 of that year) has been in charge of the company since the departure of Univision Communications president and CEO Joe Uva in April 2010. In March 2018, it was announced Falco would be retiring and stepping down as CEO.
Univision’s roots can be traced back to 1955, when Raúl Cortez started KCOR-TV, an independent station in San Antonio, Texas, which was the nation’s first Spanish-only TV outlet. The station was not profitable during its early years, and in 1961, Cortez sold KCOR-TV – now known as KWEX-TV to a group headed by Mexican entertainment mogul Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta, owner of Mexico-based Telesistema Mexicano (the forerunner of Televisa).
Cortez’s son-in-law Emilio Nicolás Sr., who helped produce variety programs for the station, held a 20% stake and remained as KWEX general manager for three decades. The new owners helped to turn around the station’s fortunes by heavily investing in programming, most of it sourced from Telesistema Mexicano.
On September 29, 1962, Azcárraga and his partners launched a second Spanish-language station, KMEX-TV, in Los Angeles. KWEX and KMEX formed the nucleus of the Azcárraga-owned Spanish International Network (SIN), created in late 1962. SIN was the first television network in the United States to broadcast its programming in a language other than English.
From 1963 until 1987, SIN was managed from offices in New York by Rene Anselmo, an American who had worked for Azcárraga in Mexico City for eight years as head of Telesistema’s programming export subsidiary. Having supervised the launch of KMEX, Anselmo spearheaded SIN’s expansion, first into the New York City area, when it founded WXTV in Paterson, New Jersey (licensed in 1965 and launched in 1968), next in Fresno, California (licensed in 1969 and launched in 1972 as KFTV), and then by acquiring WLTV in Miami in 1971. That year, Azcárraga and his partners incorporated these five stations (separately from SIN) as the Spanish International Communications Corporation (SICC), with Anselmo named as president.
In Chicago, SIN moved its programming from WCIU-TV to new full-time affiliate WSNS-TV in July 1985. After WSNS was sold to Telemundo in 1988, what had become Univision moved its programming back to WCIU-TV, which agreed to air Univision programming on weekday evenings and weekends.
In 1994, the network purchased English-language independent WGBO-TV after WCIU-TV turned down Univision’s request to become a full-time affiliate in favor of maintaining its longtime multi-ethnic programming format. WGBO-TV became an Univision-owned station on December 31, 1994.
Univision operates on a 164-hour network programming schedule, which it adopted in January 2013. The network’s base programming feed provides general entertainment programming on an uninterrupted 24-hour schedule each weekday, as well as from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Saturdays and Sundays (the first three hours of the secondary weekend schedule on Saturday mornings, starting at 8:00 a.m.
Eastern and Pacific Time, is occupied by the children’s programming block “Planeta U”). The remaining weekend time periods are filled with infomercials (prior to 2013, the network had programmed a full 168-hour schedule, with reruns of past Televisa-produced entertainment programs filling the two hours on Saturday and Sundays now occupied by paid programming).
Although Univision’s owned-and-operated stations and affiliates largely rely on the network’s master feed to fill their daily broadcast schedule, many of its stations also produce their own local programming, usually in the form of newscasts and public affairs programs (production of local infotainment programming, and leasing of brokered programs such as direct response and religious content, is at the station’s discretion).
Many Univision stations usually air limited local news programming, which are commonly reserved for early and late evening timeslots on Monday through Friday nights, with the master feed incorporating alternate programming that news programming may pre-empt on its broadcast outlets during these designated time periods (as well as others in which stations carry additional local programs); some of its stations may also air newscasts on weekday mornings (these are mainly limited to the network’s O&Os in larger markets) and/or on weekend evenings.
The majority of Univision’s programming consists of telenovelas and series produced by Televisa, the majority of which originated on the company’s flagship network in Mexico, Canal de las Estrellas. Prior to 2009, Univision had also broadcast telenovelas and other programs produced by Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision.
Otherwise, Univision produces a moderate amount of original programming, including the reality competition series Nuestra Belleza Latina (“Our Latin Beauty”), La Banda (“The Band”) and Mi Pongo Mi Pie (“I Stand Up”); national news programming; entertainment news shows El Gordo y La Flaca and Sal y pimienta (“Salt and Pepper”); and sports discussion program República Deportiva (“Sports Republic”). Univision also operates its own television production unit, Univision Studios, which its corporate parent launched in 2009 and produces original content for the network.
The network’s signature program, the variety show Sabado Gigante, hosted by Don Francisco, aired on Univision every Saturday night from April 12, 1986 to September 19, 2015 (its final episode was broadcast live in the U.S., Mexico and in Chile, where the program originated in 1962); in addition from September 2004 to May 2015, Univision aired Clásicos de Sábado Gigante (“Giant Saturday Classics”), an early Sunday morning program consisting of condensed two-hour episodes of the series on an approximately one-year delay from their original broadcast.
After Sabado Gigante ended its 29-year run on the network, Univision continued the Saturday evening variety tradition with its move of the Televisa-produced music and game show Sabadazo which it had aired on Saturday afternoons since the show moved from sister network TeleFutura (now UniMás) in September 2012 into part of Gigante’s former time slot on October 17, 2015, before reverting to an afternoon slot and being replaced by the investigative news program Crónicas De Sábado after four months due to low ratings.
As such, Univision is one of only two American television networks that airs the first-run program during Saturday prime time (CBS is the only other, although ABC, Fox and occasionally NBC broadcast live sporting events during Saturday prime on certain weeks of the year). Univision also typically airs drama and variety series in the afternoon (telenovelas that appeal to teen or pre-teen audiences previously aired on early Saturday afternoons until 2011).
Scripted series and variety shows (such as Bailando por un Sueno (“Dancing for a Dream”), Como Dice el Dicho (“As the Proverb Goes”) and El Chavo Animado (“El Chavo: The Animated Series”)) largely make up Univision’s weekend lineup. Reality programming became a focal point of the network’s Sunday primetime schedule beginning in 2007, with the debut of the beauty pageant competition series Nuestra Belleza Latina (“Our Latin Beauty”).
Sitcoms, once a major part of the network’s schedule, have a reduced presence on Univision in recent years; since 2008, the network has only obtained rights to two comedies produced by Televisa since that time (Durmiendo con mi Jefe (“Sleeping with My Boss”) and Todo en Incluido (“All Inclusive”), both of which began airing on Univision in 2014), although it continues to air comedies that are no longer in production to which Univision continues to maintain U.S. distribution rights (including the family sitcom La Familia P. Luche and the sketch comedies La Hora Pico, Desmadruga2 and its spin-off Estrella2), mainly in overnight and select weekend timeslots.
Although its reliance on them has greatly decreased since 2009, the network also airs some feature films, generally older Mexican imported films from the 1960s to the 1980s, which occasionally air in weekend timeslots not occupied by afternoon football events or Sunday evening reality programs (this is in contrast to UniMás and Telemundo, which both air Spanish-dubbed versions of films produced for the English-language market, although Telemundo also airs Mexican-produced films in overnight timeslots). Until September 2009, when the network began ceding the time period to telenovelas, Univision filled the 10:00 p.m.(Eastern and Pacific Time) hour on Monday through Fridays with various programs each night (including Cristina, Don Francisco Presenta (“Don Francisco Presents”), the newsmagazine Aqui y Ahora (“Here and Now”) and Televisa-produced sitcoms and sketch comedies), mirroring the scheduling of English language broadcast networks.
The network also maintains a sports division, Univision Deportes, which is responsible for the production of sports content on Univision, UniMás, Galavisión and its dedicated cable-satellite sports channel Univision Deportes Network. For the main Univision broadcast network, the division produces association football matches from Liga MX (which have aired since 1987), select matches involving the Mexico and United States men’s national football teams, as well as tournament matches from the CONCACAF Gold Cup (the rights to which it assumed in 2000) and Copa América (which began airing in 1993).
The network formerly held the Spanish language broadcast rights to the FIFA World Cup from 1978 until 2014 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 1999 until 2011, with the rights migrating to Telemundo and NBC Universo beginning with the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
In addition, the division also produces the weekly sports talk program República Deportiva, a Sunday daytime program that debuted in April 1999 with a companion late-night edition premiering in January 2015; and the weeknightly sports highlight/discussion program Contacto Deportivo (“Contact Sports”), which debuted in 2002 on what was then Telefutura, before moving to the main Univision network on March 2, 2015.
Univision Children’s programming has played a part in Univision’s programming since its initial roots as the Spanish International Network. From 1962 until 2004, the bulk of SIN/Univision’s children’s programming was derived of mainly live-action and animated programming from Televisa and other content partners.
One such notable program was El Show de Xuxa (“The Xuxa Show”), a variety-based series starring the Southern Brazilian entertainer, which became a hit in the U.S. when it debuted on the network in 1992 (Xuxa would subsequently star in an American syndicated version of the program that aired for one season from 1993 to 1994).
In April 1995, Univision test-marketed Plaza Sésamo (“Sesame Street”), Televisa and Children’s Television Workshop’s Spanish-language adaptation of Sesame Street featuring a mix of original segments featuring characters based on its U.S.-based parent series and dubbed interstitials from the aforementioned originating program, on its owned-and-operated stations in Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami.
The success of the test run led the network to begin airing the program nationally beginning on December 11 of that year; the program aired on Univision until 2002, when it moved to its newly created sister network TeleFutura as part of its “Mi Tele” (“My TV”) block (the Univision network resumed its relationship with the now-Sesame Workshop when it debuted the U.S.-based Spanish language spin-off Sesame Amigos (“Sesame Friends”) in August 2015).
The network aired its children’s programs on weekday and Saturday mornings until April 1997, when Univision relegated its children’s programming exclusively to Saturday mornings to make room for its new morning news/talk/lifestyle program ¡Despierta América!.
In 2003, Univision reduced the amount of children’s programming on its schedule, reserving weekend morning and Saturday early afternoon timeslots for youth-oriented telenovelas. Following an agency investigation resulting from complaints by the United Church of Christ and the National Hispanic Media Coalition during license renewal proceedings for a Univision-owned television station in 2005, in February 2007.
The FCC levied a $24 million fine the largest single FCC fine filed against any corporation to that point against the network’s 24 owned-and-operated stations for circumventing federal guidelines requiring broadcast television stations and networks to air at least three hours of educational programming aimed at children by claiming the novelas (with the Televisa-produced Cómplices Al Rescate (“Friends to the Rescue”) specifically cited as one example, due to the incorporation of occasional adult themes in some plotlines and complex subplots that were not suitable for younger children) as compliant educational programs in Children’s Television Act filings for 116 weeks between 2004 and early 2006.
The fine was paid as a component of a settlement that preceded the FCC’s approval of Univision’s acquisition by Broadcasting Media Partners Inc. to resolve then-pending license renewal applications for O&Os WQHS-TV in Cleveland and KDTV in San Francisco.
In June 2018, Univision has 27 owned-and-operated stations, and current and pending affiliation agreements with 37 additional television stations, encompassing 25 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. possession of Puerto Rico. The network has an estimated national reach of 58.35% of all households in the United States (or 182,330,440 Americans with at least one television set), making Univision the largest U.S. broadcast television network by total market reach.
Univision maintains affiliations with low-power stations (broadcasting either in analog or digital) in several markets, including a few larger markets such as San Diego (KBNT-CD and its repeaters KTCD-LP and KHAX-LP), Minneapolis−St. Paul (WUMN-LP), and Kansas City (KUKC-LP). In certain other markets, these low-power affiliates also maintain digital simulcasts on a subchannel of a co-owned/co-managed full-power television station.
Currently outside of Univision’s core O&O group, the Entravision Communications Corporation is the network’s largest affiliate operator by numerical total and market reach, owning or providing services to 15 primary affiliates of the network (including stations in two top-ten markets, Boston and Washington, D.C., as well as stations in other large and mid-sized markets such as Orlando, Tampa and Albuquerque). In other areas of the U.S., Univision provides a national cable network feed that is distributed directly to cable, satellite and IPTV providers as an alternative method of distribution in markets without either the availability or the demand for a locally based owned-and-operated or affiliate station.