Univision Jumps Into Paid Streaming Fray, Taps Netflix Exec to Lead Global SVOD Strategy
The company’s subscription VOD service, announced Monday, will be anchored by the content library and intellectual property of Televisa, the Mexican broadcast and TV production stalwart that is merging with Univision in a $4.8 billion deal, along with a slate of 30 originals set to debut in the first year.
Univision says it’s driving full bore into the subscription-streaming sector: The Spanish-language media and broadcast giant plans to launch a paid over-the-top service in 2022 in the U.S. and Latin America alongside an expanded free, ad-supported package.
The company’s subscription VOD service, announced Monday, will be anchored by the content library and intellectual property of Televisa, the Mexican broadcast and TV production stalwart that is merging with Univision in a $4.8 billion deal, along with a slate of 30 originals set to debut in the first year. Univision said it will provide details of the SVOD service, including the name, pricing and launch date, after the Television deal closes (expected to happen later this year).
Univision has global ambitions with SVOD — looking to tap into the nearly 600 million Spanish speakers around the world, according to Pierluigi Gazzolo, president and chief transformation officer. The company is “uniquely positioned to satisfy the global demand for premium Spanish-language content, the last truly meaningful open lane in global video streaming,” he said in announcing the SVOD plans.
The company is announcing the SVOD plans now because it wants to attract talent to make original programming. “We wanted… to tell the creative community that our doors are open, to participate in content partnerships with us,” said Gazzolo, who said the creative community “is already coming to us because they understand our strategy.
According to Univision, the new premium subscription service will offer more than 6,000 hours of Spanish-language content within its first year, including original productions from Maria Dueñas, Santiago Limon and Mario Vargas Llosa. The goal is for the premium SVOD service to be the home of more originally produced Spanish-language content than any other streaming service globally, per Gazzolo.
At the same time, Univision plans to upsize and consolidate its free, ad-supported streaming assets into a unified global brand and service. The AVOD offering will be anchored by Univision’s PrendeTV free streaming tier, launched this spring, incorporating VIX and Univision Now services. Overall, the Univision free streaming service will comprise more than 100 linear channels and 40,000-plus hours of VOD content.
To lead the SVOD launch, Univision recruited Rodrigo Mazon, a six-year Netflix veteran who most recently was VP of content. Prior to Netflix, Mazon spent three and a half years at Hulu as director of content acquisition.
Mazon is Univision’s new EVP and GM of SVOD, reporting directly to Gazzolo. Mazon will be responsible for all elements of the SVOD service, including content and programming strategy, original content production, talent relations, content acquisitions from third-party producers and subscriber growth and retention.
“I could not be more excited to join such a unique company and visionary team at a pivotal time in Univision’s growth and transformation trajectory,” Mazon said in a statement provided by Univision. In addition to throwing the resources of Televisa into the SVOD push, “Univision is also opening its doors to invite established and emerging Spanish-language creators to join us in developing what will undoubtedly be the most prolific Spanish-language streaming service.”
Mazon’s appointment follows the recent addition of Michael Cerdá as Univision’s EVP of product and engineering, streaming. Cerdá joined the company from Disney Plus, where he was global head of product, and oversees the product and engineering strategy for Univision’s streaming portfolio. Rafael Urbina, EVP and GM of AVOD streaming, continues to lead PrendeTV and will head up the future free ad-supported tier both in the U.S. and internationally.
Univision’s SVOD service will launch with more than 30 original productions throughout 2022. Creators on board to develop shows include Maria Dueñas (bestselling author of “El Tiempo Entre Eosturas” and “La Templanza”); Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel-winning Peruvian author whose 2006 novel “Travesuras de la Niña Mala” to be adapted into a TV series executive produced by Patricio Wills from Televisa’s W Studios; and director-producer Santiago Limon (“Hasta Que la Boda Nos Separe”), who will team with Propagate’s Ben Silverman on “Pinches Momias” an action, horror and comedy series in which Guanajuato’s renowned mummies come back from the dead during the busiest week of the year.
In addition, the Univision subscription tier is set to feature “Mujer del Diablo,” created by Leonardo Padron (writer of primetime series “Amar a Muerte,” “Rubi” and “Si Nos Dejan”), and historical series “No Llegaron Solos,” through a development deal with Caracol Televisión, 360 Powwow and Isla Audiovisual, which portrays the adventures of three women who came with the Spanish conquistadors to settle in Latin America.
“With today’s announcement we are giving an early view into the scale and scope of our streaming ambitions,” Univision CEO Wade David said in a prepared statement. “With this team and the resources we are allocating, we will launch a service that is differentiated, high quality and best in class.”
Other SVOD platforms — like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Prime Video and HBO Max — do have Spanish-language content. But the overall volume of content is far lower than Univision will bring to market, Gazzolo said. “We do fundamentally believe the Spanish-speaking audience is significantly underserved,” said the exec. Before joining Univision in January 2021, he was president of streaming and studios for ViacomCBS Networks International.
Univision has yet to decide on pricing for the SVOD package but Gazzolo promised it will be aggressive. “We are going to be very, very market-friendly when it comes to pricing,” he said. In addition, the company expects to try to upsell users of the refashioned Univision AVOD service, which Gazzolo described as an “expanded broadcast experience.”
Among Univision’s other projects in this area, it is evaluating how to build out an owned-and-operated streaming platform. Currently, the company uses Endeavor Streaming’s services to power PrendeTV.