Rafael Urbina, General Manager & EVP AVOD, Streaming at Univision Communications Inc. was interviewed by Nextv News Latin America regarding the company’s aims for this year and the impact of the pandemic on the industry. In addition, the executive reported that they are in talks to integrate AVOD OTTs Vix and PrendeTV apps to pay TV operator’s offers in the US and Latin America, as well as they plan to double PrendeTV’ linear channels catalog by the end of the year.
Univisión started 2021 by announcing its sale to SearchLight and ForgeLight investment funds. Later, the AVOD OTT Vix acquisition was announced; together with the launch of the advertising-based platform PrendeTV, and, in recent days, the merger of content assets between Televisa and Univision, creating a new company (Televisa-Univision) whose first project is the joint launch of an OTT platform. In this context, what are Univision’s main goals for 2021?
All the mentioned announcements are quite important, but they are all under the same goal. Univision’s acquisition by SearchLight and ForgeLight took place because they have an investment thesis based on re-considering the business, leveraging on streaming. There is a very big opportunity in the Spanish-speaking markets, and there are currently more than 600 million Spanish-speakers in the world, and there is no company that is 100% focused on serving those Spanish-speakers the way we think we are. That is the general thesis. The PrendeTV announcement is part of that thesis, whose first step is to offer an ad-supported product. Buying Vix supports that same announcement. Vix is a leader in AVOD in many of the Spanish-speaking countries, thereby supporting the launch of PrendeTV, as well as the AVOD business globally, starting in the US, where, historically, Univision has had the largest share of its focus. Now, with the merger of Televisa’s assets with Univision’s and the creation of the new company, we will be able to think about the business in a more global way. I even think that Vix somehow already announced that we are aiming for a more global vision. And, with this new merger, we will be allowed to access the largest Hispanic content library in the world, and monetize and distribute it through OTT platforms globally. That is the common thread of all these transactions: the effort to create a streaming product in Spanish that can serve the 600 million Spanish-speakers in the world.
What content makes up the Vix catalog up to now?
There are more than 20 thousand hours of content on the platform. There is a very large content library, ranging from serial content, episodic content, novels, series, to films,, documentaries, and a fairly wide diversity of content, which has been growing. And growth is not static. We have teams in both the US and Latin America that are constantly looking for and negotiating new content.
Is Univision working on the possibility of adding Vix or PrendeTV to pay TV operator’s offers through their STBs?
In the US we are already noting an opening for pay TV operators to add AVOD services in their STBs. We are in talks, both in the US and in Latin America, to do that with our AVOD services, with both Vix and PrendeTV. These models are fairly new, but at the end of the day, operators want to give their customers the best content offering. If customers are interested in AVOD platforms and in accessing those libraries, it makes a lot of sense and you can come up with a business model that satisfies both parties to make that possible. The AVOD market is going to continue to grow more and more, and we are all in the competition to position ourselves as leaders in that category, and it is important that the category grows. In Latin America, I think ad-streaming is something pretty new. We are expanding the streaming market. Market forerunners, such as Netflix, are subscription products that limit the universe of consumers who can access that product. With AVOD, we are going to make streaming go towards something much more massive, especially considering that, in Latin America, mobile penetration is very high. Many of our users broadcast from their mobile device to the TV, and it is a behavior that we notice is growing. For me, the future of TV is streaming, and I think that, eventually, we will have a mobile penetration similar to that of TV.
What are the differences between PrendeTV and Vix and what are the aims with the first one?
The main difference between PrendeTV and Vix is that PrendeTV offers linear TV channels. By the end of April or the beginning of May we will already be on 50 channels in Spanish as part of PrendeTV’s catalog, with content from movies, series, novels and sports, including matches of the Champions League and the Mexican Football League (Liga MX). In PrendeTV a hybrid experience between live-linear content and on demand is offered. We have been growing very fast, and the PrendeTV app has positioned itself as one of the most downloaded mobile apps in the US in terms of entertainment, both on iOS and Android, even above many apps available in English and aimed at the general market. Positioning ourselves in the top 10 in downloaded apps, as we have been in some moments, both on iOS and Android, shows that we are having very good feedback. Today, for example, on Roku, the three most downloaded apps in the ‘Spanish TV’ category are Univision apps, and PrendeTV has very quickly reached the third position. I believe that PrendeTV has the potential to position itself as the most used app in the Hispanic market very quickly.
At this time we are not sharing figures, but the numbers and targets with PrendeTV are very high. We have great expectations, and we think it has an enormous potential. Perhaps towards the end of the year, we will be sharing numbers with more detail. We are currently offering around 50 channels, and we are aiming to double that number by the end of the year. We have just added four new channels with content from Hollywood studios, and we have partners such as Disney, MGM, Lionsgate, and we are negotiating with many others.
How will the catalog of the new streaming platform to be launched together with Televisa and Univision be made up? Will the BlimTV and Univision Now catalogs undergo any changes as a result of the launch of the new platform?
The agreement was announced a few days ago, and it still has to go through a fairly extensive regulatory process, both in Mexico and the US. Sharing plans right now is a bit premature. We have just launched PrendeTV in the US with linear channels in Spanish, it is an AVOD offer to be able to add in Mexico and the rest of the region and we are very excited about being able to do so eventually. But, as for what is going to happen with other Univisión and Televisa’s platforms and how all these apps coexist, it is still very early and, at the end of the day, we want users to tell us how they want to consume the content. According to that information, we will try to understand what is the best experience for the user. Our aim is to serve users in the best possible way, and to ensure that the content we have on the platforms has the widest distribution. We will be giving more details towards the end of the year or the beginning of the next one, as we have more information.
What are, in your opinion, the main changes that the pandemic has had on the industry?
The pandemic has been a great accelerator of trends that were already on track. And the streaming market was not an exception: it was already growing and has accelerated itself during the pandemic, because people were eager to consume more content. The sports world was also paralyzed itself, which made people look for more entertainment content. We noticed a huge growth once the world became closed and people started to consume more content via streaming. However, for me, this does not mean that TV is going to disappear, but that it is going to evolve. We notice that people still want to consume linear channels, and not think about what they want to search for and browse through a large number of titles to decide what they want to watch. We can deliver the traditional TV experience also via streaming. At the end of the day, technically, there is no barrier to doing that. Both TV and streaming are going to converge, and TV is going to evolve. We will have more and more people streaming, but they will be streaming linear channels, which are not very different from what we had before on traditional TV. People are having more and more control over their entertainment experience, and once the user gains that control, it is difficult to take it away from them. We are in a great moment of TV, where more TV content is being consumed than ever.