Univision Secures More Retrans

Dish and Time Warner Cable deals done
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NEW YORK: Univision said it nailed down retransmission agreements with two top carriers this week. The Spanish-language broadcasters secured deals with Time Warner Cable and Dish Network, after a spate of similar pacts reached in early March.

The TWC deal, described only as “long term,” covers retransmission of Univision’s 64 TV stations, and carriage of Galavision, its cable network, and network feeds of the Univision and TeleFutura broadcast networks. Also covered are Univision affiliates owned and operated by Entravision and Equity Media Holdings. A video-on-demand component is included as well.

The “multi-year” deal with Dish is similar, though no VOD piece is mentioned. Terms of neither deal were disclosed, but several published reports have indicted Univision was going after a $1 monthly, per-subscriber fee for retransmission, though larger carriers typically get a discounted rate from networks. TWC has around 14 million subscribers; Dish has 13.7 million--two of the biggest TV carriers in the United States.

The deal with Dish was reached just as the satellite system was preparing to drop Univision properties, according to Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News.

Univision reached a number of similar retransmission deals during the first week in March, with AT&T’s U-verse IPTV system, cabler Insight Communications, DirecTV and 50 smaller cable and telcoTV operators around the country. The broadcast company estimates that it will generate more than $100 million a year from retransmission.

Univision this week posted its 2008 financial results, reporting a $5.1 billion loss on a $5.4 billion write-down. The company is laboring under heavy debt as a result of a $13 billion buy out by private investors in 2006. The company elected in early March to borrow money for interest payments, The Wall Street Journalreported. Univision was said to take out payment-in-kind, or “PIK-toggle” notes to pay interest on $1.5 billion in bonds. PIK-toggles allow companies to choose between cash or credit interest payments. The strategy is becoming more common as companies strive to conserve cash to get through the recession. – Deborah D. McAdams