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A new arrival to the 2016 U.S. Hispanic sports media scene. Spanish-sports site As, owned and operated by Grupo Prisa, is launching As USA, a U.S. Hispanic edition of the site at http://us.as.com/us/.

Sports, with the passions it arises and its strong global Latin soccer celebrity element, is content that can travel extremely well in the Spanish-speaking world. That seems to be one of the main reasons why Spain’s Grupo Prisa is launching a U.S. edition of its sports website As.com. The move reflects how Grupo Prisa, the largest media company in Spain and one of the largest ones in the Spanish-speaking world, continues to bet on the Americas.

The site has been active (soft launch) since November 15, Gonzalo Ochoa, ‎Managing Director at PRISA Brand Solutions Americas tells Portada.

3709172817_681fd828c6_oAlejandro Gomez, a former director of Mexican sports daily Record,  based in Mexico City, is in charge of both the U.S. Hispanic and the Mexican Edition of As. The newsdesk for the U.S. Hispanic edition is located in Miami. It has 7 reporters, including sports journalist Daniel Hidalgo, who recently relocated from Spain.
In addition to the Miami and Mexico City newsrooms, As has editorial presence in Chile and Colombia. The main newsroom is based in Madrid, where As houses more than 100 journalists for its Spanish online and print editions.

We have an editorial team of 7 people based in Miami led by Chief Editor Daniel Hidalgo.

Miami based Prisa Brand Solutions will sell into the U.S. Hispanic edition of As. The unit, led by Ochoa, also sells into other Grupo Prisa digital properties (e.g. El Pais.com), to advertisers targeting U.S. Hispanics and Latin America (pan regionally). In addition to the U.S. Hispanic edition, As, which in English means “star player”, also has local editions in Colombia, where it was introduced through Grupo Latino de Publicidad (a Prisa owned Bogota, Colombia, based multimedia ad sales company). The Mexican As edition also benefits from cross promotion with Televisa Radio (Grupo Prisa owns 50% of Televisa Radio and the remaining 50% is owned by Televisa.).

The Latin American combined audience of As is of approximately 4.5 million unique users. (The site is in the top 3 position in the sports category in many countries including Chile, Colombia and Mexico). In the U.S. Hispanic market the site attracts approximately 650,000 unique users and the goal is to double that amount within the next year.

In the U.S. Hispanic market As reaches approximately 650,000 unique users and the goal is to double that amount within the next year.

Video and Branded Content Opps

AsVideo will be a key attraction to advertisers in the U.S. Hispanic edition of As, says Ochoa. High impact units on the home page (e.g. Wall paper video) are very coveted by advertisers. Branded content campaigns are also in high demand. According to Ochoa, the strongest ad-categories include telecommunications and automotive. Companies in both categories aggressively market to the Hispanic consumer.

Editorial Emphasis

The new site’s base content will be soccer, a substantial amount from Spain led by the Real Madrid and Barcelona teams (“La Liga”). Substantial editorial focus will also be placed on Latin American players playing in Europe’s Champion’s League (e.g. Argentinean Lionel Messi, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Mexican forward Javier “Chicharrito” Hernandez. Other soccer coverage will include MLS and the NASL (other major soccer league) and the Mexican League. Other sports are NFL, NBA and MLB.
The upcoming Copa Centenario to be played in the U.S. as well as the Olympic Games and Latin American Soccer leagues will also be part of the content program.

As USA will be officially launched at an event in Miami at the Spanish Consulate on January 21.

 

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What: Spain’s Grupo Prisa, the owner of several radio and digital media properties in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market, just sold its majority stake in leading Spanish Pay-TV provider Canal+. The proceeds of the sale will be used to reduce Grupo Prisa’s debt.
Why it matters: Grupo Prisa will now deepen its strategy to expand its product and revenue base in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market.

SpainSpain’s Grupo Prisa, continues to bet on its Latin American expansion. Juan Luis Cebrian president of Grupo Prisa defended the company’s internationalization strategy during the Annual Shareholder Meeting that took place in Madrid at the end of last month. According to Cebrian, the Group can already be defined as a “Latin American company” rather than a Spanish company. Cebrian noted that without consolidating the sales of pay-TV provider Canal+ (which Prisa just sold , see below), the percentage of EBITDA generated outside of Spain that is expected for 2014 amounts to 85%. In 2013, revenues the group had outside of Spain amounted to 937 million euros (approximately US $1.35 billion), or 34% of  the overall sales  of 2,796 million euros (or US$ 4.1 billion). Without the revenues of Pay-TV provider Canal+, 68% of revenues and 91% of EBITDA originated outside of Spain. Cebrian highligthed the high growth rate in Prisa’s Latin American text-book publishing, radio and digital news units. Prisa CEO Fernando Abril Martorell noted that Latin American business has been growing at a 10.5 % measured in local currency.

AmericasSeveral years ago, Prisa announced its objective of substantially expanding its Latin American business as well as objectives regarding the percentage of overall revenues coming from digital. The growth of the share of digital revenues in total revenues, has been somewhat slow and the financial troubles of the group have even impacted the company’s expansion in Latin America (e.g. Prisa Digital had a full-fledged office with a sizable team in Miami until 2 years ago).. For 2014 Prisa expects digital revenues to amount 8% of overall revenues. Abril Martorell noted that digital advertising grew by more than 15% in 2013 and amounts to 21% of overall revenues of El Pais and 51% of sports newspaper As.

According to its leading executives Grupo Prisa can already be defined as a Latin American company.

Prisa’s Latin American and U.S. Hispanic strategy is also reflected in the fact that two major entrepreneurs, one Mexican and one U.S. citizen, were just named new members of Prisa’s Board. They are Mexican entrepreneur Roberto Alcantara Rojas as well as John Paton, CEO of U.S. newspaper and digital Media giant Digital First Media (as well as former CEO of U.S. Hispanic newspaper publisher impreMedia).

Divestment Policy…

While, even in today’s economically troubled Spain, most of the units of Grupo Prisa are profitable, Prisa’s finances are seriously threatened by a very high debt burden of over 3 billion euros (approximately US $4.4 billion.)
Prisa which publishes Spain’s most-read newspaper El Pais, has been restructuring its debt burden of over 3 billion euros and selling off many of its media assets.

…leads to sale of leading Pay-TV Operator

As part of its strategy to raise capital to lower debt last week Prisa announced the sale of one of its most valuable assets, the leading pay-per-view TV operator Canal+ for 725 million-euro (US $1 billion) to telecommunications company Telefonica for a controlling stake of 56% in Digital Plus.

Earlier this year, Prisa also sold Alfaguara, the publisher of Nobel-prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa and several other editorial brands, to Penguin Random House for 72 million euros ($100 million).German media group Bertelsmann and Britain’s Pearson last year completed the merger of their publishers Penguin and Random House.Alfaguara – directly owned by Santillana, a publishing house controlled in turn by Prisa – is one of Spain’s best-known book publishers, founded by celebrated novelist and Nobel prize-winner Camilo Jose Cela in the 1960s.

Major Spanish media groups with presence in the United States and Latin America are going through tough times, although Grupo Planeta continues to operate in the black. This is mostly because of the continued difficult economic environment in Spain as well as  high debt loads. Below what a look at the P&L  of Unidad Editorial, Grupo Prisa and  Grupo Planeta reveals.

Photo: License Creative Commons
Photo: License Creative Commons

Prisa’s operating losses were of little more than 172 million euros (or US $230 million) during the first 9 months of 2013. Unidad Editorial registered operating losses of almost 40 million euros (US $53.6 million). Vocento losses were of 3, 6 million euros (US $5.4 million). Planeta was the only group to register operative profits  with a positive outcome of around 58 million euros (US $76 million).

COLOMBIA HAY FESTIVALOver the last decade major Spain headquartered media groups significantly expanded in the Americas enticed by growth opportunities as well as cultural and language affinities. However, the above mentioned economic difficulties have slowed this expansion somewhat. Let’s look into the figures:

Prisa

prisaGrupo Prisa is the publisher of newspaper El Pais, as well as sports print and digital property As. It also owns major radio assets in Spain, the U.S. (Grupo Latino de Radio) and Latin America. Other major assets include  the Santillana text book publishing company.  During the first three quarters of the year  Prisa registered operating losses of 172, 06 million euros, compared  to a profit of 155, 80 million euros registered during the same period of 2012. Prisa registered a consolidated revenues of 2.011,22 million euros  during the January-September period. According to Digimedios, 0.7% above the 1997.54 million euros recorded during the same period last year.

Prisa sold its 42% stake in U.S. Hispanic broadcaster V-Me in September.
All units earnings went down except for the Pay-TV unit. Advertising revenues decreased by 5, 9% to 377, 95 million euros. Grupo Prisa also had to pay around 15.5  million euros to compensate workers who have been laid off. In addition, the goodwill value of the Digital  unit (Prisa Digital) was reduced to  207 million euros (aproximately US $280 million. Together with its financial results, Prisa also reported to the CNMV (the Spanish Securities and Exchange Commission) that in September it sold its 42% stake in U.S. Hispanic broadcaster V-Me. Separately, Grupo Prisa is seeking to reach an agreement with creditors to refinance more than 3 billion euros ($4 billion) in debt as early as this week, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.Earlier this month, Prisa obtained a new credit line of 350 million euros to cover some financing needs.

Unidad Editorial

unidad-editorial.logo_-290x134Unidad Editorial’s publishing assets include daily newspaper El Mundo as well as sports daily Marca.  Unidad Editorial had operating losses of 39, 9 million euros in the January-September 2013 period, according to information published by its Italian parent company RCS Mediagroup. Losses were much lower than last year losses of 364 million euros. In 2012 the P&L was affected bya  substantial write off of the assets of publisher Grupo Recoletos, which Unidad Editorial bought in 2007. As regards to advertising revenues, Unidad Editorial ad revenues  decreased by  16,1% from 124 million euros to 104 million. Digital Advertising revenues amounted to  24 million euros in digital advertising revenues or 23.1% of total advertising revenue.

Grupo Planeta

grupo.planeta.logo_Grupo Planeta is a major book publisher in the Spanish-speaking world and also has substantial holdings in the TV, radio and newspaper sectors.  During fiscal  2012 Grupo Planeta had an operating surplus of 112,083 million euros, a 38, 3% decline compared to the 181,733 million euros of 2011. During 2012, Grupo Planeta’s sales amounted to 1.648,220 million euros (1.969,173 million in 2011). According to information included in the management report attached to the financial statement previously mentioned, the company’s sales decrease  was mainly due to the sale of the 55% stake Planeta had in the Colombian publishing house El Tiempo, publisher of newspaper El Tiempo. Planeta recently sold its stake in El Tiempo.

Vocento

vocentoVocento, the publisher of Spanish national daily ABC as well as a many regional newspapers,  had operating losses of 3,6 million of euros during the first three quarters of 2013. This is less than half the losses it incurred during the same period of 2012. Revenues fell by 14, 1% to 386  million euros compared to 449  million during the same period of 2012. Print media continues to have the biggest amount of revenues Vocento with a 65% share of total, it is followed by audiovisual (radio, TV and production) as well as the Internet.

 

 

The “V” of Vme Media Inc. might very well now stand for “Venezuela,” as a group of high-profile Venezuelan investors are committing a “major investment” in the struggling Spanish-language TV network.

Eduardo Hauser, Juan José Rendón and Eligio Cedeño this week finalized a deal to invest an undisclosed amount of money to gain a controlling interest in Vme Media Inc., the U.S. Hispanic content and distribution company based in New York City. Financial terms have not been disclosed, but Hauser, Vme Media’s new Chairman of the Board, tells Portada the investment will help Vme Media transition from a “financially strapped company to one that is properly capitalized.” The prior controlling investor was Spain’s Grupo Prisa, which has been hurt by the deep economic crisis in Spain.

The investment group will supplement existing staff from Vme.

According to a prepared statement going out today, the investment group will supplement existing staff from Vme. Vme will continue to work with its 42 public television partners across the country as well as to grow and enhance the company’s commercial cable network, Vme Kids.

The new investors will now have four seats on the Vme board and have appointed Eduardo Hauser, Victor Cerda, Juan José Rendón and Eligio Cedeño. Prisa, Symcom Venture Partners and Thirteen (formerly known as Educational Broadcasting Corporation) a WNET subsidiary, will continue to be represented on the board of Vme Media, Inc. by Manuel Polanco, Terry Jones and Bob Feinberg.

A bet on the Future of Hispanic Public Media

“We think we can help Vme Media better navigate the world of public media,” says Hauser, a media management expert who has worked at Venevision, The Cisneros Group and AOL and sits on the board of NPR. “There has never been a better time to invest in a company like Vme Media […] Education is among the topics that matter most to Hispanics.”

Vme Series Franny TV
Vme Series Franny TV

Another major new partner, Eligio Cedeño, is behind two other TV companies: Internet TV Soi.tv and Canadian Hispanic TV network Nuevo Mundo, which will remain independent from Vme Media, at least for now. Cedeño is the Venezuelan banker who won notoriety after being detained in 2007, when the Venezuelan government accused him of circumventing government currency rules to gain U.S. dollars.

Major programming changes are not expected any time soon, and while Hauser declines to be specific about staff changes, an official statement that is being distributed to the media today states: “The investment group will supplement existing staff from Vme.”

The network plans to hold an upfront presentation in early May in New York City. Some of the new investors, including Cedeño and Hauser are expected to attend.

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