Featuring news, sports, and telenovelas (soap operas), TV Azteca has something for viewers of all ages. Mexico's #2 TV broadcaster (behind Grupo Televisa) operates the Azteca 13 and Azteca 7 national networks and owns and operates some 300 television stations throughout the country. The company also operates Azteca America, a leading Spanish-language network in the US that boasts more than 65 affiliates. In addition, TV Azteca produces more than 8,000 hours of content, operates music label Azteca Music and Internet portal Azteca Web, and owns the Monarcas Morelia soccer team. Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas controls more than 60% of TV Azteca through his Grupo Salinas.
The popularity of telenovelas in Mexico led TV Azteca to break ground on a new $55 million studio in 2009. TV Azteca films and produces its own telenovelas, including the popular Pasion Morena and Pobre Diabla, at its existing 27,000-sq.-ft. studio in Mexico City. The new 61,000-sq.ft. facility will add seven studios and allow the company to increase production up to 1,800 telenovela episodes per year when complete in mid-2010. TV Azteca plans to begin airing another hour of telenovelas per day, up from five to six hours of programming. The studio will also be the home of La Academia ("The Academy"), TV Azteca's popular American Idol-esque talent show.
The new studio will be HD-capable, but Mexico has until 2021 to quit using its analog signal and become completely digital. Many of the programs filmed there are expected to air on Azteca America. Also in 2009, TV Azteca teamed up with Brazil's TV Globo to co-produce a new telenovela called Loco Amor ("Crazy Love"), which is expected to be distributed in the US.
In 2008 TV Azteca expanded into Guatemala, acquiring a 70% stake in that country's Latitud TV. The deal allows the Mexican TV company to broadcast content and sell advertising on two channels that reach the entire country.
TV Azteca and Televisa together command more than 95% of the television broadcasting market in Mexico. The company has also been accused of using aggressive tactics (some might say muscle) to keep the competition at bay: Telemundo, owned by NBCUniversal, charged that the company influenced local police to shut down production of the hit talent show Quinceanera in 2006. The two companies have continued to hurl insults and lawsuits at one another.
That aggressiveness most likely flows from the top as TV Azteca boss Salinas is no wallflower when it comes to competition and running his business empire. In 2006 the company settled a lawsuit with the SEC stemming from charges that Salinas personally profited from questionable stock deals involving mobile phone operator Unefon (which he also controlled) to the tune of $109 million. (TV Azteca delisted from US stock exchanges in 2005.) – less