Jesus Lara

It’s been a busy month of audio announcements for Univision. In a succession of moves, the company has rebranded its music and audio properties under the new Uforia Audio Network umbrella. It’s also partnered with Napster to relaunch its Uforia mobile app. And it’s announced plans to ramp-up its podcasting business. Inside Radio caught up with Univision Radio president Jesus Lara to discuss the news. An edited transcript follows.

First, let’s begin with why Univision relaunched the Uforia app.

We’ve been thinking a lot about our direct to consumer play for quite a while. We had a decent product in the marketplace, but technology is never static. It’s a constant evolution. There’s always new and better best practices that come to the market. So for the past 18 months we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can best represent our direct to consumer experience. We wanted a product that was engaging, that people felt proud about, and excited about. And one of the things that we discussed internally was the best way to convey Hispanic culture is not just through our ears—our music and personalities—but also through the eyes since it’s such a colorful culture. So we created a product that is visually immersive and allows us to create colorful imagery of our culture, the artists that we play, and the many cultural elements that represent what we do into a product that we feel can now compete with other products in the marketplace. The app itself has been created in a way that allows us to not only offer our radio stations, but it also allows us to offer playlists in an ever-increasing number of different formats. It also allows us to easily bring on podcasting in a way that’s visually immersive in a way that tells a story of our personalities.

Is this part of CEO Vincent Sadusky’s effort to put more focus on local broadcasting?

First and foremost, he has laid out an incredibly clear vision for the company. The previous management was trying to find growth in chasing things that were not part of our core. He’s brought us back to our core and our number one priority is to super-serve our Hispanic America audience. With that clarity and vision, every department has figured out how to execute on that vision. On the radio side, we saw a big opportunity in bringing all of our audio and radio properties under the Uforia brand. The other reason was we felt we needed a mobile product that can better represent us, our content and our culture.

Does this mean we’ll see more cross-pollination between broadcast radio and digital?

Absolutely, without a doubt.

That includes podcasting?

The beauty about podcasting is that it is an absolutely natural extension to the relationship we have with our audience. We have an unparalleled connection via radio, via TV, and it’s just another powerful media platform. What I’m most excited about when it comes to podcasting is it really allows us to give our incredible wealth of talent the opportunity to go deep into subject matters that they’re very passionate about. On linear radio you can only go so deep before you start losing an audience. It’s really all about the breath of the topics—you can’t go deep into it because you start to lose the audience. But on a podcast it allows you go deep into those verticals and ultimately to start building communities around those themes. We have talent that is incredibly passionate about motherhood, fashion, car culture, and podcasting allows us to allow them the opportunity to expand that interest.

Will you rely just on Univision Radio talent?

The podcasting platform is going to be open to any radio or TV talent that is passionate about a particular topic and they want to develop a show. For example, León Krauze, who anchors the 6pm and 11pm newscast on our KMEX-TV in Los Angeles, hosts multiple podcasts. He hosts Epicentro, La Mesa, El Gabfest en Español. That’s just one example. We also have deals with third-party publishers who have come to us as the expert in Hispanic to help them distribute and monetize their podcasts. We have a deal with TED en Espanol, we’ve got all of their podcasts. We’re looking to offer our entire talent roster the opportunity to further develop their interests via podcasting and we’ll also work with select publishers who want to reach the Hispanic audience and they come to us as the experts in the medium.

Research suggests the Hispanic market is ripe for podcast listening.

The Hispanic space isn’t a complicated one, but it can be complex at times. Hispanics in the U.S. are very different from Mexicans living in Mexico or Columbians living in Columbia. Hispanics in the U.S. are made up of 27 different nationalities, with different colors and different nuances, and we’re different. But those are cultural nuances that Univision and Uforia have a clear understanding of because we’ve been in the states for 60 years. We’ve got all the key demographic trends that paint a beautiful demographic opportunity for us. But let’s be clear, it is a new medium. It’s not going to make or break our year. But the sooner we start the sooner we can develop a real business out of it.

How much of Hispanic listening is already being done digitally?

The research that we’ve seen at the moment is that Hispanics account for 11% of monthly podcast listeners according to Edison Research. And 45% of them listen to digital streaming. And 21% own smart speakers.

Does podcasting allow you to reach Hispanics in markets where Univision doesn’t own a radio or TV station?

Without a doubt. And it’s not just through podcasting, but also our mobile app. So now we have people in Atlanta, where we currently don’t own radio stations, listening to our Miami or New York radio stations. The other thing is in general, we live in a world where there is a lot of transition and people move from one city to another. So after the hurricane in Puerto Rico, people left the island physically but their hearts and minds are still on the island. We have the two biggest-rated stations in Puerto Rico. Our streams of those two stations have increased significantly since then because we have thousands of Puerto Ricans still listening to those stations through our mobile app.

This month you announced all music and audio properties would be branded under the new Uforia Audio Network umbrella with the “The Home of Latin Music” tagline. What’s behind that move?

First of all, all 58 radio stations are going to retain their local branding identify, that’s not changing. But we are creating an umbrella brand which is Uforia which encompasses all of the individual market stations, our digital strategy including the app, and our live events strategy. So we can now create a cross-platform, end-to-end solution for our audience, our marketing partners, and the artist and talent that we work with.

How will that play out what’s all the parts are in place?

We live in a world where everything is converging and people don’t have a single touch point anymore. So a lot of marketers are requiring omni-channel solutions. They don’t just want to buy a linear radio schedule or a digital schedule. They want a full, end-to-end solution. We can develop a linear campaign that gets extended to digital through Uforia or through websites and then it can come to life at one of our live shows. We can develop an entire brand journey for a marketer tied across all of our platforms. That’s the type of the solution we want to bring to advertisers.

What about for listeners?

For consumers, we have millions of listeners who listen to us every day on linear radio as they’re walking into work. As soon as they leave the car they can pick up the app and continue to listen to us on Uforia. If they win a couple of tickets to one of our live shows, a couple of weeks later they can live the Uforia experience at one of our concerts. We want to be available wherever the consumer wants to engage with us. We cannot only rely on connecting with the consumer in the car. The mobile app allows us to travel with the consumer and our live concerts allow us to bring those experiences to life.

Anything else we should touch on?

Univision is living its best moments. We have clarity in mission and a very clear strategy. I could not be more excited with what the future holds for the audio division and the company as a whole. These are the first steps that we have set into place to execute Vincent Sadusky’s vision of super-serving Hispanics. We’re bullish about radio and audio in general. And the one thing that we’re most bullish about is being the destination for Hispanic America.