Leadership in Finance: Telemundo’s Javier Maynulet

The CFO plots how to extract the most cash from the TV network's mushrooming audience while toeing the line between short-term obligations and long-term opportunities.

He’s too young to qualify yet as a “lifer,” but since graduating from Boston College in 1996, Javier Maynulet has known only one employer: General Electric. Already in his second CFO job within the company at age 35, he finds himself a central player in a business that wields the potential for explosive growth.

Maynulet was appointed in January to run the finance organization at Telemundo Communications Group, the Spanish-language network owned by NBC Universal, a GE subsidiary. Though Telemundo is seen in 85 countries and its shows are dubbed in 35 languages, the content is aimed specifically at Hispanics living in the United States, an ethnic group that has accounted for half of the U.S. population growth since 2000 and is expected to continue expanding vigorously for decades to come.

From a finance standpoint, Telemundo is the merest blip on GE’s radar. It accounts for only about 3% to 4% of NBC Universal’s revenue, says Maynulet, whose previous job was CFO of Universal Media Studios & Universal Cable Productions. That would have equated to a topline of about $500 million to $700 million in 2008, when, according to CapitalIQ, NBC Universal brought in a $17 billion sliver of GE’s $182 billion pie.

But because of the demographic trend, Hispanic cultural awareness is a most valuable asset, sought not only by NBC and GE but by practically every big company in America. That puts Telemundo and the Puerto Rico-born Maynulet in a brighter spotlight than the operating unit’s current size would otherwise dictate.

Maynulet says Telemundo’s business model multiplies its growth potential. Four years ago, the network began producing its own content and repackaging it in various media and markets, rather than buying it canned from independent production companies, as chief rival Univision still does. Figuring out how to do that most profitably is Maynulet’s main job, within which, he says, the biggest challenge is balancing short-term gains versus long-term opportunities.

Following is an edited version of CFO.com’s interview with Maynulet.

How’s the recession affecting Telemundo’s business?

We own 14 local TV stations, and they’re suffering the most. That also goes for NBC and across the television market. The automotive industry was a big advertiser, and the beating it has taken has hurt us.

How are you fighting that?

What we’ve got going to help offset some of that pressure is that our ratings are going up, which is very different from general-market TV, where ratings have been in a big decline for years.

Javier MaynuletMaynulet: “I don’t want to waste good content when we’re not going to be able to capitalize on it.”

What also helps is our international business. We’re growing in the countries where we sell our content. If we had the same strategy we did five years ago, that would have amounted to nothing, because we didn’t have any content to sell internationally. In the past, people were thinking about what that night’s ratings would be. Now there’s a lot more strategic thinking about the value of content beyond the network airing. How is it going to sell in Spain, and Colombia, and the rest of Latin America? Are there any digital or DVD opportunities?

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