By: Dade Hayes
Univision kicked off its re-constituted, two-day, downtown upfront presentations with a streamlined, hour-long show at Tribeca’s Spring Studios.
“Good evening and welcome to Tribeca,” said Tonia O’Connor, the company’s chief revenue officer. ‘Forget the theater district. We’re upfronting in the hip and fun district, which is like the experience we’re giving you today. The upfronts have been done the same way for the past 50 years. It’s time for some disruption.”
In lieu of the standard 90-minute to two-plus-hour extravaganza (two of which, Fox and NBCUniversal, preceded Univision’s), the Hispanic media company delivered a lean and bullet-pointed tour through the offerings for ad buyers. The clips and on-stage remarks in one large hall (where the Tribeca Film Festival last month had its festival hub) were accompanied by installations showing off an array of augmented reality and digital attractions.
This has already been a year of transition for the privately held Univision, whose CEO, former NBC vet Randy Falco, accelerated his retirement date to the end of 2018. The company also set a restructuring and abandoned a planned IPO. It remains the dominant legacy player reaching the Hispanic audience, but has recently faced increasing competition from NBCU’s Telemundo.
Technology aside, O’Connor said, “culture has always been at the root of UCI’s mission.” Through the flagship broadcast network and a suite of digital brands including The Onion, The Root and the Gizmodo sites, the company said it surrounds the Hispanic marketplace. O’Connor said she is often asked about the relationship between the digital and linear assets. “How do they fit?” she asked. “It’s about purpose.”
Lisa Valentino, who recently joined the company as EVP of revenue innovation, said Univision is “the gateway to the Hispanic marketplace.” With 20 partnerships with digital companies ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Pop Sugar and Players Tribune, she said 100% of U.S. Hispanics can be reached by brands.
Linear advertisers have similar advantages, said Steve Mandala, who was promoted last summer to president of ad sales and marketing at Univision. “Welcome to the most innovative of all upfronts,” he said, noting that 2018 marks his 20th upfront. “You can cut me in half and measure t.he ratings,” he quipped. While some experimentation with English-language offerings continues in an effort to reach bilingual households, he noted that 81% of U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish.
After a handful of other execs took the stage to zip through offerings across sports, scripted and unscripted programming, Daddy Yankee closed the hour-long show with a short but rousing set that got the crowd on its feet (more than Jamie Foxx’s teasing and tummling at the Fox upfront did). Natti Natasha and DJ Khaled are also scheduled to perform during Univision’s double-header.