TelevisaUnivision is targeting the biggest ‘niche’ streaming audience of them all: 600 million Spanish speakers

There must have been something in the water last week. The first ViacomCBS moves to Paramount Global on Tuesday, dropping legacy names that have earned it billions of dollars over the past decades during a 2.5-hour presentation about its streaming future. Then on Thursday, newly merged Televisa Univision held its own lengthy investor briefing, unveiling plans to merge various streaming operations into just two, the ad-supported Vix and the subscription-based Vix Plus.

Read also : TelevisaUnivision set to launch ViX and ViX Plus streaming services

The revamped Vix (it’s a rollup of several separate Univision properties) will launch late next month. Vix Plus will arrive later in the year, with both services expressly designed to provide different experiences for viewers, but all focused on a nuanced approach to creating many different shows for 600 million different people across the Western Hemisphere who speak Spanish. .

For all their differences, both Vixens (Vixi? Vixa? Vixations?) will sit in the same app, which seems extremely sensible, and perhaps the kind of clever branding overhaul you can most easily do after a gigantic fusion where you have to integrate everything anyway.

Many large US general service streamers are also trying to integrate their operations more seamlessly, though often much less cleanly. Paramount Plus, for example, is launching 18 linear channels in its two subscription tiers, and is also launching a bundle with Showtime OTT integrated into the interface. Disney is slowly integrating various combinations of Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Hotstar into their interfaces.

There are other reasons to follow this deal and the company behind it. The $4.8 billion TelevisaUnivision merger was announced 10 months ago, spearheaded by powerful partners Liberty Global, Softbank and Alphabet. Univision’s private owners had been looking for a good partner for several years, having abandoned a strategy that included a series of bizarre (and short-lived) acquisitions of, shall we say, non-core assets, such as Gizmodo and The Onion. .

Along the way, Televisa has held various stakes and production deals in Univision, dating back to the 1950s. in the USA. Now they are on the same side all the time.

Their combined assets include dozens of television and radio stations carried by Univision in the United States, the Prende TV AVOD service, the Univision and UniMas broadcast networks, Televisa’s four “free-to-air” channels, and 27 pay-TV networks. , its Videocine film studio, and the Blim TV SVOD service. Televisa alone produced 86,000 hours of news, sports, sitcoms, dramas, reality shows, movies, educational and children’s shows and more in 2020 for its various Mexican outlets.

When the merger was announced, the companies said: “The combined entity will have the content, production capacity, intellectual property, global reach and financial resources to aggressively pursue the relatively global opportunity nascent Spanish-language streaming industry.” Thursday’s Vix/Vix Plus announcement aimed to deliver on that bold statement, with a content machine now pointed to streaming in a big way.

“One (difference): a massive investment of billions of dollars in new content in Spanish,” said CEO Wade Davis. “That’s multiples of what any other service spends on the language, (thanks to) extreme belief in the desirability of the world’s first large-scale streaming service, exclusively serving the Spanish-speaking world. So let’s be clear: our new service is not an overhaul of a TV offering What we are building is in addition to our TV business, hundreds of originals, thousands of hours of exclusive live football, original live news and an innovative product at an unbeatable price.

Vix/Vix Plus will not only reach the United States and Mexico, but also 19 other Latin American countries, with what Chief Transformation Officer Pierluigi Gazzolo has touted as “the first global streaming product of its kind with two very distinctive experiences”.

As it becomes the ad-supported 2ay, Vix will deliver a “broadcast-like experience” with live news and sports, entertainment across all genres, delivered on-demand and across linear channels.

Vix Plus will launch in the second half of the year with “our sole purpose…to deliver more native Spanish content than any other streaming platform.” This includes, among other things, a truly overwhelming amount of soccer, 3,000 football matches on Vix Plus over the next year, including World Cup matches, CONCACAF regional qualifiers, domestic club leagues like Mexico’s top-tier Liga MX and many more still other things.

And while TU executives touted their reach to “more than 60% of the respective TV audiences in the United States and Mexico,” i.e. the most valuable and populous Spanish-language markets respectively. to the world, they also promise a far greater in-depth and nuanced approach to creating shows for people who live in other parts of the hemisphere.

Combined, the two services will offer 50,000 hours of free and paid content over the next year, including “regionally produced” content that “authentically represents diverse Spanish cultures,” Gazzolo said.

“This audience is still underserved, given that there isn’t a single global streamer that fully and exclusively targets them with Spanish-language content,” Gazzolo added. “Only a fraction of the content (that) the overall service offer is originally produced in Spanish. Second, we will put Spanish content and our culture at the center of everything we do. »

“Global streamer” is, of course, a reference to services such as Netflix and Disney Plus, which count respectively Casa de Papel (Money theft) outside of Spain and Pixar’s Latinx themed (but mainly in English) Encanto among their biggest streaming hits of all time.

These services and others approach Spanish-language programming in a way that is anything but nuanced. Even Spanish as spoken by the motherland of the language differs significantly from region to region. Spain, not to mention the New World. This lack of nuance and particularity is reflected in the small part of their programming that comes from the Spanish language.

The cultural differences between, say, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Panamanians, Venezuelans and Mexicans in and around the Caribbean, are much larger than the body of water where they all sit, despite their common language and their common roots. It doesn’t even begin to describe the regional rivalries, histories, cultures, conflicts, and even slang differences across South and Central America.

To help attract more of those viewers into Vix’s audience, the company said it would make shows relevant to specific territories in Latin America, while spending “significant additional dollars” to acquire users in those 19 other countries.

This speaks to one of the great challenges TU faces as it attempts to expand beyond its home territories. Executives were vague on pricing, saying they would announce subscription fees for Vix Plus at a later event.

But just as global streamers have struggled in pricing the vast and complex Indian market, TelevisaUnivision may need to be as nuanced in pricing its services by territory as it has pledged to be in producing contents.

They might quickly find that subscription prices make sense in San Antonio, Miami, Los Angeles, Guadalajara, or the DF won’t play as well in El Salvador, Ecuador, or Bolivia (by the way, given El Salvador’s fervent official embrace of cryptocurrency, will Vix Plus accept payment in Bitcoin when it launches there ?).

TelevisaUnivision is right to embrace its extensive Spanish-language roots for the streaming era and seize the resulting opportunity to determine what kind of business it will move forward beyond its enviable lineup of assets.

And it certainly has potential on-the-ground advantages over rivals like Netflix and Paramount’s ad-supported Pluto.TV, which have operations across Latin America. But getting all the pieces to fit together, on a sustainable level, will be TelevisaUniversal’s challenge as it fully embraces its streaming potential.

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