CABO SAN LUCAS, Baja California Grupo Televisa is the undisputed, and as yet unchallenged, leading player in Spanish-language media in the world, a position dependent on its core broadcast TV business in Mexico.
But with limited potential for the multimedia conglomerate to grow at home, chairman, president and CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean is focused on expanding Televisa's influence and presence abroad -- most immediately in the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic marketplace.
"Our priority is the United States," says Azcarraga, speaking to Variety in this resort town in February,
To wit, Televisa invested $375 million in new equity as part of a revised accord with U.S. Hispanic network Univision in December.
At the same time, as Televisa marks its 30th year, Azcarraga and his top executives are taking a long, hard look at domestic operations, an analysis that took on greater urgency in light of the impact of the global recession and slowdown of the Mexican ad market.
Azcarraga convened here some 70-odd top executives and management -- many of them thirtysomethings like himself -- to discuss corporate strategy while encouraging open debate within the closed-door sessions.
Televisa has expanded selectively: It launched live entertainment subsid En Vivo, and formed a joint venture with Endemol to produce reality programming in Mexico ("Big Brother" just bowed) and is co-producing with SBT in Brazil.
However, without the benefit of Summer Olympics and political ad spending that helped buoy topline results in 2000, consolidated net revenue slipped 3.7% in peso terms to $2.14 billion for 2001.
The group didn't ignore the signs of recession: At the end of April 2001, it initiated $60 million in cost-cutting measures that included reducing production, pinkslipping 750 staff members, and nixing loss-making 24-hour pay TV news net ECO, which was bleeding some $12 million a year.
Cost-cutting has been one of Azcarraga's main concerns since he took over Televisa at age 29 upon the April 1997 death of his father, Emilio Azcarraga Milmo. Largely the need to put Televisa's -- and its holding company's -- financial houses in order drove those efforts.
From May 1997 through year end 2001, he sold off $2.4 billion in assets, and shrunk the workforce of more than 20,000 to under 13,500.
"He cleaned up the balance sheet, which was the Achille's heel of the company and he managed to get a new deal into place for the U.S. Hispanic market," significant accomplishments …