Less than a year since its launch, “Univision América de Costa a Costa” is no more. Univision Radio has pulled the plug on its AM radio network’s national morning drive show.
The 3-hour program, hosted by Ricardo Espinoza, Tsi Tsi Ki Félix and Ricky Lopez, was launched in March of 2014, replacing local programming.
Now, it has been taken off the air to give local station general managers around the country the flexibility to fill the time period with content they see fit – whether it’s local shows, infomercials or sponsored programming.
The majority of the shows have been eliminated from the national programming schedule. Only three live personality shows will remain on weekdays: Fernando Espuelas, María Marín and Doctora Isabel.
In an interview with Media Moves, Univision Radio president José Valle was reluctant to call the process a restructuring.
“I don’t know that we would call it restructuring. It’s always improving our systems and operations. The only thing we’ve done is some format adjustments with Univision América with the shows itself,” he says. “I don’t want to diminish it, because anytime you impact people it’s an important thing, but it was nothing in large scale. It was just a small adjustment of some content.”
Due to the programming changes, several employees, including show hosts whose programs were cancelled lost their jobs, although Valle would not address how many or who they were.
The programming “adjustment” says Valle, will “give local GMs the opportunity to address their market, be it via sharing of their local news operations content or via monetization opportunities. We have a lot of local demand for the morning drive period. Local business owners, talk shows, advertorial type stuff.”
As part of the changes, Univision América has pushed the time slot of Doctora Isabel and María Marín to an hour later, starting the block at 11 am ET/8 am PT. Only Fernando Espuelas’ show remains in his current time slot of 2-4 pm ET/11 am-1 pm PT.
“The focus of our network programming has been our three core personalities that function very well for us,” says Valle.
Sports show “Locura Deportiva,” produced by Univision Deportes, also remains on the weekday programming grid, as well as local sports shows.
“Zona Política,” with Helen Aguirre and “Hablando Claro con Rubén Luengas” were also canceled. On his Facebook page, Rubén told fans he no longer worked at Univision Radio and thanked the company for the opportunity to host his show.
The reason for the changes:
“We always look at operations, at everything we do from programming and content to entertainment and sales. We’re always looking at better ways of doing things to be profit oriented,” says Valle.
It’s unclear yet what programs will remain on the Saturday schedule, since Valle did not detail other program changes or show replacements. But a source says “El Show de Alfonso Aguilar” and “El Consultorio de la Dra. Aliza” did not make the cut.
Valle pointed out that play by play sports are an important weekend attraction and have a big role on Univision América’s weekend lineup, which carries teams like the Padres, Marlins and Jets.
“Newsmaker Sunday,” which Univision Radio launched quietly last year and kept under the radar, is another program that will continue on the air. The English-language public affairs show is hosted by Fernando Espuelas.
“His show is doing very well Monday through Friday and Sunday as well. It gives us exposure and connectivity both to Washington and issues that affect our community,” says Valle. “Our end goal is to give the community what it wants and to be as competitive as we can be.”
That includes reaching out to the new generation of listeners via online streaming and the Uforia app.
“The Uforia app has been tremendous for us and we stream all our stations on Uforia,” states Valle.
According to Univision, the Uforia app engages 259,000 monthly unique visitors, while 745,000 listeners stream Univision Radio stations via the web on a monthly basis.
“People are now listening differently. The percentage of people listening to radio is the same today than 10 to 20 years ago – 92% of Americans and 94% Hispanics. It’s just that now, they have more options. Radio isn’t dying.”