Mexican’s television history goes back to the Azcárraga family as well. During most part of the 20th-century, the television industry was a private monopoly. In this first phase that began in the 1950s, the Azcárraga family acquired of all the national networks and most of the local TV systems. Telesistema Mexicano launched in 1955, at first comprising only three TV channels. However, throughout the decades, the mogul forged political alliances to buy licences from partners and sustain its continuing growth that eventually gave rise to Televisa, and to his son’s reign, in 1973. By the 1980s and 1990s, the network was one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world, having integrated vertically and horizontally to include other media formats, enter in other markets, launching new ventures and participating of most of the production chain in audio-visual industries.
The network was known for its multi-million production of entertainment -mainly telenovelas- and musical shows, for its star-system type of entertainment, for owning Mexico’s main sports stadium and football team, and for gaining most of the broadcasting rights for the key global sports and special events. As for news and editorial policies, critics noted how Televisa’s journalists and anchors readily tailored their values and content to promote the network’s commercial interests and political agendas, and therefore, those of the regime. In exchange for being a private monopoly, the Azcárraga family offered loyalty to the semi-authoritarian regime and the newscasts were not allowed to be critical of the president and governors and, in general, of all the public powers. By the turn of the millennium media scholar Daniel Hallin observed that there was no country comparable in size to Mexico in which a single private company so dominate the airwaves.
The second phase of this industry started in 1993, when the Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari allowed to open two national networks. As part of its commitment to the recently signed NAFTA to increase media competition in the broadcasting sector, the Mexican government privatized two state-led TV channels that morphed into a new private network: TV Azteca. In a questionable move, both channels were sold to household appliances entrepreneur Ricardo Salinas Pliego, emerging as a competitor for Televisa and grabbing some of its audience share. However, this was also a discretionary process that attracted much criticism and controversy at the time. In the end, instead of competing, Televisa and TV Azteca collided and formed a duopolistic market, which, save for a spell of independent production, did not significantly change the television contents or formats.
The third phase occurred in 2014, after the creation of a new Telecommunications law that regulates the broadcast industry and that, amongst other things, pushed for the reduction of ownership concentration in radio, television, and telecommunications sectors- this reform is discussed in a further section - . In 2016, Imagen Television became the third national TV network in Mexico, with the license being granted to a known newspaper mogul. Nowadays, the once powerful Mexican television industry is facing important changes and losses due to legal factors, changing consumer patterns and pulverization of audiences due to digitalization and technological change, as well as other exogenous factors. In the past few years, Televisa has had to cut production budgets, restructure operations, downsize newsrooms and ventures, sell important assets, and as a result continues to report losses, due to falling advertisement contracts and ratings for terrestrial channels. All of these have partially ended –or at least undermined—the monopolistic nature of this industry.
According to a 2108 IFT survey, 96% of the Mexican population lives in a place that has terrestrial TV coverage. Other 93 percent of the population reported to own at least one television set and on average, there are 1.9 TV devices per household. Moreover, 48 percent of respondents reported to own a smart TV. 51 percent of the population reported to exclusively watch terrestrial TV broadcasting, 37 percent to only watch paid television services, and 12 percent expressed to watch both. In other words, terrestrial television broadcasting is still very important in Mexico, since 72 percent of the population says that they regularly watch this type of broadcasting. Still, it is unlikely that the industry regains its past glory, as neither telenovelas and Sports matches, nor live talent shows or reality shows –some of their traditional sources of rating— are as appealing to younger audiences as they once were.
The television landscape is the following. There are 885 television stations, from which 607 have a commercial nature (69 per cent), 257 public (29 percent) and 21 social (2 percent). The TV industry is regulated by the same bill as the radio industry; thus, both share the same types of classification. In total, these stations are broadcasted through 376 TV channels. In the commercial sector, there are seven national TV channels: Las estrellas and Canal 5, owned by Televisa, Azteca 1, Azteca 13, adn40 and a+ owned by TV Azteca and Imagen TV, owned by Grupo Imagen. As can be observed, the television industry is more diversified when compared to the monopolistic structure of the twentieth century, when Televisa controlled the markets. However, Televisa still controls 43 percent of the market, TV Azteca 31 percent, Imagen TV 21 percent and other small players 5 percent, although this concentration lags far behind the 90% of audience share that the main networks once had.
According to the same survey, the top five most viewed TV channels in Mexico were Las estrellas (Televisa) with 50 percent, Azteca Uno (TV Azteca) 41 percent, Canal Cinco (Televisa) 37 percent, Azteca 7 (TV Azteca) 29 percent and Imagen Television (Grupo Imagen) with 7 percent. The same study shows that newscasts (44 percent) are the most viewed content followed by movies (40 percent), soap operas (31 percent), series (22 percent) and sports (24 percent), without mentioning whether this changed depending on the audience.