Latino activists and entrepreneurs Jess Morales Roquito and Stephanie Valencia have raised $80 million to launch a new Latino media company called Latino Media Network.
why does it matter: It is one of the largest capital raising for a Latina owned and operated startup in the United States
- “It would be audacious for people like us to do something of this magnitude,” Morales Roquito said in an interview. “Steve and I have been raising money for a long time, but these are orders of magnitude more than we’ve ever done before.”
News leadership: With the capital, the duo acquired 18 Hispanic radio stations across 10 markets from TelevisaUnivision.
- The deal, valued at $60 million, is one of the largest single acquisitions of radio stations by a Latino-owned and operated company.
- “These 10 markets are some of the densest in the country,” Valencia said, referring to markets such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno and Las Vegas. “They basically give us access to a third of the Hispanic population in this country.”
- Most of the acquired stations are primarily in Spanish and a few are bilingual. Some AM stations are talk radio, while others are sports broadcasting affiliates of major professional sports teams. Most FM stations focus on music at the moment.
- “This decision follows a formal process, in which TelevisaUnivision has met dozens of potential buyers,” TelevisaUnivision said in a statement.
The startup has recruited Dozens of prominent Hispanic personalities, entrepreneurs, media personalities and investors to join her cause.
- The board will include Morales Roquito and Valencia, as well as businessman and radio investor Tom Castro and social justice activist Henry Muñoz III. Castro has bought and sold more than 50 radio stations serving the Latino community and serves on the boards of Nielsen and Cumulus Media.
- The investment is led by Lakestar Finance, an investment entity of Soros Fund Management, as are other individuals, including Hollywood actress and entrepreneur Eva Longoria.
- Univision award-winning anchor Maria Elena Salinas and Al Cardenas, former chair of the Florida Republican Party and the American Conservative Union, will serve as advisors.
Quick catch up: Valencia previously served as Special Assistant to former President Obama and Principal Deputy Director of Public Engagement at the White House.
- Morales Roquito has worked for many nonprofit organizations and is a graduate of Hillary for America, AFL-CIO, Obama for America, and the Democratic National Committee.
- Asked if the company would have political leanings, Morales Roquito said, “It’s not about politics. We are serious about serving society, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
- “Of course Stephanie and I are what we are, we’re not and we don’t want to hide it, but it’s not political.”
Between the lines: Latino Media Network said it will focus on creating and distributing media content across all media, with a particular focus on audio to start with.
- The company plans to expand beyond radio into podcasts and content on YouTube and other digital platforms. It will take a bilingual approach, producing and distributing content in both Spanish and English across different platforms, such as podcasts and social media, as well as its own channels.
- “We are interested in expanding the digital footprint across all of these stations,” said Morales Roquito. “YouTube is a major entry point for Latinos,” she noted.
In numbers: Radio has the highest weekly reach among Hispanic adults in the United States at 96%, compared to 92% of the total population, per Nielsen. Radio interaction among Hispanics has intensified dramatically during the pandemic.
- Listening time to podcasts among Hispanic Americans jumped 44% in 2021, according to Edison research. More than a third of Latin American adults listen to podcasts on a monthly basis.
How it works: From a business perspective, The company says it will make money from advertising against radio content and, in the future, from spreading content to other stations.
- While the broadcast ad market has recovered from COVID, Valencia said there will be more business opportunities for the company as it expands digitally into multi-platform audio via YouTube podcasting and elsewhere.
- From a content perspective, Latino Media Network said it will build programs around trusted news personalities and subject matter experts to help the Latino community navigate complex topics, such as health care, finance and small business. Valencia said that while much of this content will be supported by ads, some programs can be funded through philanthropy.
The Big Picture: The increase in Latino Media Network and the TelevisaUnivision deal represent the latest significant moment of momentum for Hispanic media.
- Two weeks ago, Candle Media, the Blackstone-backed media holding company led by Disney veterans Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, acquired Exile Content Studio, one of the world’s fastest growing Spanish content companies.
- Last month, a private equity-backed startup bought some of the most influential Spanish-language newspapers in the US
- Latinos are driving population growth in the United States, but society has long been treated as a monolith. Latino Media Network said it will focus on creating content that addresses the different cultural and political differences that affect different types of Latinos.
minimum: “Our stories have often been erased or hidden,” Valencia said. “In some ways, you wouldn’t know that Latinos would be a major part of the US population in our lifetimes.” “Our ability to bring a sense of belonging, influence and power to this community is very important.”
What’s Next: The company is hiring an executive team, including a CEO, to begin hiring talent and managing TelevisaUnivision-owned assets.
- The deal is expected to expire in late 2022, following regulatory approval in the United States.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comment from Morales Rocketto on company policy.