By Sahil Patel
Univision, like other traditional media companies, recognizes that younger viewers are watching less and less — if any at all — of their content on TV. To reach these millennials on the platforms that matter to them, the company is building a multichannel network for Hispanic YouTube, Vine and other online video stars, as well as partnering with Snapchat to create original content around Univision properties.
The new Univision Creators Network, which launched last week, is comprised of established and emerging Hispanic YouTube and Vine stars such as David Alvarez,Eric Ochoa, Ronnie Banks and Louis Giordano. The goal is the same as for any media behemoth that has acquired an online video network in the past few years: Reach the millennials who no longer watch TV the way they used to. Except, instead of acquiring a hot startup that has already secured scale, Univision wants to build its own network.
“We didn’t want to just go out and acquire something and then figure out how to fit the puzzle together,” said Steven Benanav, Univision’s vp of content partnerships and gm of its digital entertainment division Flama, of the decision to launch UCN. “Let’s build something that perfectly fits our needs.”
At launch, UCN has 12 creators and claims more than 118 million views per month across YouTube, Vine and Instagram. Many stars have previously worked with Univision. David Alvarez, for instance, starred in a comedy Web series produced by Flama called “Saving Lives,” which was distributed across TheFlama.com, YouTube and Hulu in January.
More will be added, though Univision will take a measured approach to signing talent instead of aggregating thousands of channels in a short span. “We don’t want to bring in just anyone and everyone,”said Benanav. “Lots of MCNs have gotten into trouble in the past where they have signed a lot of talent and then the talent is unhappy because they feel they’re not getting what they wanted out of the network.”
The opportunity to extend their reach to new platforms, including digital, TV, radio and live events, will be a key pitch Univision makes to creators. Other aspects of the pitch include access to the company’s production studios in New York and Los Angeles and music library, the ability to collaborate with other Univision stars from both traditional and digital and — of course — the support of Univision’s sales teams to grow ad revenue.
UCN was also built to add scale to what Univision was already doing with its online video site Flama, which was launched in 2013 to reach bilingual millennials with short-form content. Flama produces content and distributes it across a variety of platforms, including its website (which has 1 million monthly uniques, according to Benanav), YouTube (where it has 270,000 subscribers), Facebook (where it averages 5 million to 7 million views per month) and Hulu. In total, Flama’s monthly audience is 20 million unique viewers, said Benanav.
UCN will also focus on these bilingual millennials, but it will be able to provide a wider reach than Flama can do on its own. With advertisers, Univision hopes it creates a more attractive option for advertising, sponsorships and integrations with creators signed to the network.
Another key area Univision is experimenting with in social video is Snapchat. The company has a deal with the messaging platform to create “live stories” around Univision events, including its sports broadcasts and awards shows like the Latin Grammys.
The partnership comes out of a live story that Univision Deportes and Snapchat curated for a soccer friendly between USA and Mexico in April, which generated close to 7 million streams in its first 24 hours, according to Mark Lopez, evp and gm of Univision Digital. (It’s technically not the first overture Univision has made on Snapchat; its joint venture with Disney, Fusion has an international channel on Snapchat Discover.)
Ads for live stories on Univision content will be sold in tandem by Univision and Snapchat. Initially, the network will focus on its TV advertisers and give them a “first right of refusal,” before moving on to other partners, according Lopez.
“It’s positive for us as a brand,” he said. “We are able to monetize that partnership, plus we are also attaining share of mind among folks who don’t come to us to watch our channels on TV.”
Which remains the core element of how Univision and, by association, the traditional media universe are approaching the new video-consumption platforms.
“For us, it’s to test how to put our content across different windows that can be additive to our core base,” said Lopez. “If we’re not active in these windows, we will never be part of the next generation of content creators.”