Video Interview: Televisa’s Bastón Talks Univision, Co-Pros & Digital

MIAMI: In conversation with World Screen's Anna Carugati at a NATPE session this morning, José Antonio Bastón, president of television and content at Televisa, listed Univision, co-productions, formats and digital platforms among the greatest growth opportunities for the Mexican media powerhouse.

"Our biggest competitive advantage is content," Bastón told Carugati, World Screen's group editorial director, in his NATPE Global Navigators: Exporting Expertise session. "The content we've developed in house, we have the quantity and the quality."

The telenovela, in particular, is a key strength because of its ability to create viewer engagement, "and engagement is what you need when you go into other platforms. The products that we are producing right now, that engagement that we get from our audience is going to be one of our biggest tools to compete in the new platforms. We're producing all of our new content with a transmedia mind from the beginning. That also makes us unique."

Another one of Televisa's greatest assets is that it is "100 percent vertically integrated. We develop all of the processes of production in house, we develop talent in house, we develop producers, directors, writers."

These advantages will serve Televisa in good stead as new telco reforms in Mexico will see the launch of two additional broadcast networks in the market.

"We have a whole strategy based on growth," Bastón said. "We have to grow, we have to grow, we have to grow. That's what we think about every day, knowing that the most important thing, our content, is in very good shape."

Asked about growth opportunities, Bastón first listed U.S. Hispanic media group Univision Communications, in which Televisa owns a stake. "The economic power of the U.S. is amazing, and the economic power of the Hispanic community is amazing. We are very well-positioned" with the market-leading Hispanic company, he said, which often rivals the English-language broadcast networks in its ratings.

He also sees opportunities in pay TV across Latin America, where penetration stands at about 50 percent in the region. Televisa Networks recently entered the premium pay-TV networks business, and Bastón sees more opportunities for growth there.

Co-productions is also an area the company is increasingly pursuing, with projects under way in the U.S. as well as in Brazil and Colombia. "One of the reasons we see an upside in Latin America is because…[co-productions] enable you to enter new revenue lines. So either ancillary businesses that have to do with the format or getting into the advertising pies of those countries."

Formats have been a core focus for Televisa in the last few years; Bastón noted, "Two years ago we only had four formats in the market, today we have 22 formats in 40 markets."

He also mentioned direct-to-consumer activities, notably a home-shopping network for online and pay TV—with the potential to expand to broadcast—and an OTT SVOD platform. "We think we can become the most important SVOD service in the Spanish-speaking world. We are talking with amazing partners…. We are planning to use our content on an exclusive basis in our platform. By doing that and using the partners that are important in the Spanish-speaking world, plus the cross-promotion opportunities—having the position we have in the broadcast networks, as well as the pay-TV networks—this kind of [SVOD] business becomes a lot easier for a company like ours. It doesn't have to only be in Latin America, it can be in the U.S. too."

Carugati then asked Bastón about how Televisa is expanding its relationship with Univision. "We say in Televisa, Televisa is Univision and Univision is Televisa," he said. "Univision is one of our most important assets to grow in the future. I can tell you today that in the first time in the history of our relationship, one telenovela is being aired first on Univision, then in Mexico. The development of the telenovela from the beginning was planned for the 10 p.m. slot on Univision, instead of planned for one of the slots in Mexico…. This is a game changer in how we make decisions."

The conversation then moved on to reaching younger generations of Hispanics, and Bastón discussed the success of Pantelion Films, Televisa's joint venture with Lionsgate. "It's the only option for films targeted to the Hispanic community."

Bastón is hoping that Televisa will be able to dip into its treasure trove of telenovela scripts in order to produce a Monday-to-Friday drama for the U.S. market. "The telenovela is the most important and efficient genre in the world of television. When you amortize a production into 100 hours, the cost goes so low that the opportunities for profits and margins grow big time. And you have the audience coming back to you every day. We own a lot of scripts. As soon as we find the right partner to enter the [U.S.] market with a real telenovela production, I think we'll have a home run."

Discussing Televisa's digital strategy, Bastón noted that the company is looking at how to best monetize its assets online. Transmedia properties that take audiences from broadcast to online, and back, is a key area of opportunity, particularly when it comes to campaigns that can integrate ad clients. Digital, he said, is both a "great threat" and an "amazing opportunity."