Univision has held early talks with multiple media companies seeking a sale for the Spanish-language broadcast network, reports the Wall Street Journal last week, and the timing of these talks is no coincidence.
With all eyes on the World Cup, Univision’s owners are using this moment to trumpet their network’s expanded offerings to potential buyers like CBS and Time Warner in the hopes of locking in a high valuation or possible exit prior to the company’s planned IPO in 2015.
UNIVISION’S WORLD CUP COVERAGE
Univision paid $325 million for the U.S. Spanish-language broadcasting rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. Disney/ESPN owns the U.S. English-language rights.
In return, Univision is offering fans 24-hour coverage on their sports outfit Univision Deportes Network (UDN) and simulcasts of 56 live matches on the flagship Univision Network.
Univision also launched a digital Deportes App where users can watch the first two rounds of the World Cup for free from their smart devices with the quarterfinals and beyond accessible once a user logs in using their pay-TV provider credentials.
The free digital streaming of the World Cup appears all part of Univision’s plan to blow out its coverage of the World Cup before its contract with FIFA ends and rival Telemundo takes over the Spanish-language rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
GOOD TIME FOR AN EXIT?
Univision — the biggest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US — is currently owned by a group of private equity firms centered and media heavyweight Haim Saban. The ownership collective bought Univision in 2007.
It is believed Univision is seeking a $20+ billion sale for the company which would mark a cool $6.3 billion, or 46 percent, return for the current ownership group who originally purchased the company for $13.7 billion.
An IPO has long been planned for 2015, but amid the media-merger frenzy stirred by Direct TV, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner as well as the hyper-attention placed on the network for all of its extensive World Cup coverage, the timing seemed all too right for Univision to start lobbying for a sale.
And in business, as in sports, timing is everything.