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Univision demonstrates its ratings steel

December 28, 2010 |  4:42 pm

Univision Communications is becoming a potent rival to English-language television networks, which have long dominated prime-time viewership.

The Spanish-language television broadcaster said Tuesday that its program “Soy Tu Dueña” was its most watched telenovela ever, finishing its six-month run with a final episode that drew more than 7.3 million viewers Monday night. 

Since its launch in June, “Soy Tu Dueña,” which Univision translates as “woman of steel,” has pulled in an average of 5.4 million viewers per episode, oftengenerating bigger audiences than programs aired by such formidable English-language TV networks as Fox and NBC. The Univision telenovela, or soap opera, revolves around the travails of a scorned woman, once left at the altar, who vows never to love again until she falls for a man she accidentally shot. A literal translation of the show’s title is “I am your owner.” SoyTuDuena

Monday night’s finale, according to Univision, was the top-rated program in the 9 p.m. hour among broadcast stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and San Francisco -- markets with sizable Latino populations. Nationwide, the Univision soap opera generated higher ratings than programs on NBC, ABC and Fox. CBS’ telecast of a rerun episode of its hit comedy “Two and a Half Men” with Charlie Sheen, however, delivered more viewers overall, and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” scored as television’s most watched program of the night with more than 19 million viewers.

The strength of the Univision soap opera underscores the growth of Spanish-language television in the U.S. during the last decade. Monday night’s episode ranked among Univision’s top five telenovela finales as measured by audience size, according to the company, although its highest rated was in 2007. That year, the final episode of “Destilando Amor,” attracted nearly 9 million viewers.

Univision’s telenovelas are produced by Mexico’s broadcasting giant Grupo Televisa. “Soy Tu Dueña” first began airing on Televisa stations in Mexico in April, nearly two months before the series premiered in the U.S.

Televisa telenovelas have long been ratings gold for Univision in the U.S., where nearly two-thirds of the Latino population is Mexican American and Mexican immigrants. Wall Street has long viewed Univision’s access to the Mexican telenovelas as key to the company’s financial stability. In some years, advertising generated by the programs has accounted for more than a third of Univision’s revenue.

Earlier this month, Univision completed a wide-ranging deal with Televisa, which ensured that Univision -– the No. 1 Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S. -- would maintain the exclusive rights in the U.S. to air the Televisa telenovelas through 2025.  As part of the agreement, Televisa earlier this fall provided Univision $1.2 billion in exchange for a 5% stake in the New York-based media giant. The arrangement allowed Univision to refinance some of its debt incurred in the 2007 leveraged buyout of the company.

Univision Communications, which owns three television networks and a chain of Spanish-language radio stations, is owned by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban and private equity firms Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

-- Meg James

Photo: "Soy Tu Dueña" characters played by singer/actress Lucero and actor Fernando Colunga. Courtesy of Univision Communications

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