ABC News and Univision Launch Joint News Venture

English-language network set to launch in 2013

ABC News and Univision on Monday announced a joint venture to launch an English-language TV news network aimed at Hispanic Americans.

Both partners will own a 50 percent stake in the network, which is yet to be named. The signal will go live sometime in the first half of 2013. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In advance of the network’s linear TV debut, ABC News/Univision will unveil a new website this summer. Content tailored for mobile devices and a social media component are also in the works.

Aimed at the nation’s English-speaking and bilingual Hispanic population, the network will cover the issues that are particularly relevant to the growing demographic, including: the economy, jobs, health care, immigration, education and politics. Along with hard news, the channel also will offer a measure of lifestyle/entertainment programming.

In selecting English as its default setting, the new network is looking to serve assimilated Hispanics and those who effortlessly toggle between the two languages in school, at work and at home. As the country’s largest Spanish-language media organization, Univision already provides news content in its native tongue.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the Hispanic population as of April 2010 stood at 50.5 million, marking a 43 percent increase from 35.3 million in 2000. Mexicans are by far the predominant ethnic group in the Hispanic subset (31.8 million).

Hispanics now account for 16 percent of the country’s total population. That number is projected to nearly double to around 30 percent by 2050. The demographic wields $1 trillion in annual spending power.

“For more than five decades Univision has been the leader in serving Hispanics in the U.S. and this joint venture is an extension of our vision to deliver the most relevant news and information, regardless of language, to all Hispanics,” said Cesar Conde, president, Univision Networks, by way of announcing the alliance. “This…is another example of Univision’s commitment to serving and empowering Hispanic America while connecting all audiences to Latino issues.”

The transaction is subject to the completion of certain “definitive agreements.” A management team is expected to be put into place this summer. 

The network will draw on a team of anchors and correspondents in major cities across the country. ABC News and Univision News will share newsgathering and production resources.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said the jv represents a big step in expanding ABC’s reach. “Our powerful premier news brand, combined with the world’s leading Hispanic media company, will create the nation’s first news and lifestyle channel targeted to this quickly expanding and important community,” Sweeney said.

ABC had made preliminary moves to launch a standalone cable news network in 1996, but bailed on the initiative as NBC and Microsoft began sowing the seeds of MSNBC and News Corp. doubled down on its plans to hatch Fox News Channel.

Fox News altered the carriage landscape, paying huge fees to secure distribution. At the time ABC announced it would mothball its cable news ambitions, then-ABC News president Roone Arledge said that “there was no light at the end of the tunnel,” adding that he couldn’t afford the $10 per sub fee News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch offered to pay cable operators for a slot on their channel lineups.

Carriage remains an issue today, although ABC obviously has the might of the Mouse in its favor. Disney’s ESPN boasts the highest sub fee in the business—$4.69 per sub per month, according to SNL Kagan.