When Media Vista Group acquired more television stations in 2013, the economic outlook was still uncertain.
Media Vista, founded and operated by Venezuelan-born entrepreneurs Orlando and Mayela Rosales, acquired Univision-affiliated television stations in Fort Myers-Naples, Kansas City and Minneapolis in March 2013 for an undisclosed sum. “When we acquired the stations they were losing money,” says Orlando Rosales, the company’s CEO.
But the Rosaleses turned the stations around, including investing $500,000 in a new efficient programming system just as the advertising revenues were rebounding. “It was good timing,” says Mayela Rosales, executive vice president of Media Vista. “The economy turned around.”
Now, Media Vista has acquired a building fronting U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs that will be the company’s new high-profile headquarters. The flagship building is twice the size of the company’s current facility tucked away in an industrial area of Naples from where they’ve operated the Azteca America-affiliated station for about a decade. “We wanted to be seen,” Mayela Rosales says.
The husband-and-wife team has come a long way since 2001, when they started the business with a single camera, some microphones and an editing station. At the time, the startup costs totaled $15,000. “It’s amazing,” Mayela Rosales laughs when reminded of the company’s humble roots.
But it’s no surprise because Southwest Florida’s large and growing Hispanic population is fertile ground for advertisers. In Collier County, for example, nearly 27% of the population is Hispanic, according to 2014 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Lee County, it’s almost 20%.
Even cities like Kansas City and Minneapolis present opportunities for media entrepreneurs. “Those have great potential because the Hispanic population is growing,” says Mayela Rosales.
Media Vista doesn’t just rebroadcast national programs from affiliations with Univision and Azteca America. It produces its own shows and content that entertain and educate local viewers. The Rosales say local programming is the key to drawing viewers and advertisers, and they adopted that formula for success from the outset.
The couple moved to Naples from Venezuela in 1996 in their early 30s. Orlando Rosales had been hired to manage software issues for a company in Naples, but Mayela Rosales had no outlet for her background in journalism.
So the Rosaleses bought some airtime on the UPN affiliate and they rented some space in an office park. They purchased a camera, some microphones and an editing station, and Orlando Rosales taught himself how to use it.
The couple started airing a half-hour talk show in 2002 called “Que Pasa SW Florida” at 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Mayela Rosales hosted the show, which included a mix of local news and interviews with local officials on a broad range of issues from housing to politics and health.
“Que Pasa” was a hit with viewers and advertisers because no one had created such a show for Southwest Florida’s Hispanic audience. Their first advertising customers were McDonald’s and NCH Healthcare System, a hospital operator.
They renamed the show “D’Latinos al Dia” in 2004 and lengthened the program to 90 minutes. The show sold out of advertising spots, and because of the demand it started airing daily.
In 2006, the Rosaleses purchased an interest in a Fort Myers-Naples Spanish-language television station affiliated with Azteca America but that lacked local programming. They added a magazine called D’Latinos (circulation: 15,000) and websites they can sell as packages to advertisers. “Our local programming is our brand,” says Mayela Rosales.
Powered through recession
Media companies that benefited during the boom were whipsawed the other way during the downturn as companies slashed marketing and advertising budgets.
Media Vista had no choice but to do the same to survive. The Rosaleses cut the staff to a dozen people from 20 during the boom. “Orlando made a strategic plan to survive,” says Mayela Rosales.
Indeed, Orlando Rosales wanted to position the company so it could take advantage of the economic recovery. With the help of an undisclosed family investment fund from Boston, Media Vista obtained a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration to acquire the Univision stations in Fort Myers, Kansas City and Minneapolis in March 2013.
“The first year was more intense,” says Orlando Rosales. Media Vista had to cut staff to lower expenses at the newly acquired stations in Kansas City and Minneapolis and it invested $500,000 in a master-control system used to organize the programming and advertisements. Previously, that task had been outsourced.
Orlando Rosales expects the smaller-market Midwest stations to be profitable this year as advertising continues to grow. “The markets are not as strong as Fort Myers,” he acknowledges.
The staff has grown to a total of about 40 people and the Naples office employs more people than it did before the downturn. “We have an amazing team,” says Orlando Rosales, who was inducted with Mayela Rosales into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame for Collier County in 2013.
Media Vista has seen an increase in advertising, especially from the large brands such as McDonald’s, Toyota and Florida Power and Light. Orlando Rosales says it’s still challenging to sell local businesses despite clear evidence of Hispanics’ buying power. “We continue to educate the advertiser,” says Orlando Rosales, pointing to the fact that one out of three people in the desirable 18-to-49 age group is Hispanic and spends money at a faster rate than non-Hispanics.
Orlando Rosales declines to share Media Vista’s annual sales, but he says revenues have grown at a 10% to 12% annual rate since 2013. “I think we are successful now,” he says.
Starting in July, Media Vista will have a high-profile home on busy U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs. The company paid $820,000 for an existing building fronting the main north-south artery and is spending another $800,000 to renovate it.
The facility will have a new television studio and will serve as a community center for gatherings and events. Mayela Rosales says there also will be a running track around the building to promote health and fitness. “We want to be the station of the community,” Mayela Rosales says.
But the Rosaleses are thinking beyond that, of course. For starters, they’re considering expanding the distribution of D’Latinos magazine throughout the state, including the Miami area. “The main challenge has been to find good sales people,” says Orlando Rosales.
The advertising outlook remains good, especially as political advertising ramps up for the national elections. “It will come in the third and fourth quarter,” Mayela Rosales says.
The Rosaleses are also scouting for future television stations. Although they won’t say where they’re looking, major markets are unlikely hunting grounds. “We can’t buy a station in New York or Miami,” Orlando Rosales says.
But there are markets where Hispanics represent 10% to 15% of the population and the Rosales say they’re looking for metro areas with at least 200,000 Hispanics. “We will always go where the Hispanic market is growing,” says Mayela Rosales.
A growing share
The Hispanic population is a growing share of the total population of every county on the Gulf Coast, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.