Will ABC and Univision’s Cable News Channel Sell?

Alphabet net to manage Fusion ad inventory in the near term

If you’re looking to buy time on Fusion, ABC and Univision’s new joint venture English-language news and lifestyle channel, you’ll need to look up ABC’s president of sales and marketing, Geri Wang. Reps for the new cable network say that Fusion will eventually boast its own dedicated sales organization, but in the near term Wang’s team will handle the heavy lifting.

Already, ABC sales execs are briefing clients on the network, which is slated to launch in the second half of 2013. Whether Fusion will be take part in a formal upfront presentation remains to be seen. 

Much about Fusion is entirely new; it’s the first time, for example, that any group has launched a Hispanic-focused news network with programming entirely in English. It’s also new to the cable dial, in that it’s not going to be a retrofit for a pre-existing network.

While ABC has not disclosed its target carriage fee, it is likely that Fusion will look to land a rate between 10 cents and 12 cents per subscriber per month. The hybrid nature of the network is a decidedly unknown quality; as such, Fusion is expected to write affiliate deals well below the rates charged by established Hispanic-targeted news networks like CNN in Español (a princely 58 cents per sub per month) and sports outlets like Fox Deportes (22 cents).

Univision’s own standalone sports net, Univision Deportes, charges operators an average affiliate fee of 29 cents/sub/month, per SNL Kagan.

Naturally, the potential upside for ABC and Univision is tremendous. U.S. Hispanics represent a decidedly robust consumer cohort, with an aggregate buying power that’s expected to reach the $1.5 trillion mark by 2015. But as far as marketing dollars are concerned, cable is something of an outlier. Per Kantar Media, cable nets lin 2011 took in some $227 million in Hispanic-targeted ad spend, a fraction of the $3.49 billion the broadcast networks raked in.

The network has distribution on Cox, Cablevision, AT&T U-verse and Charter systems, but has not cut deals with cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable or satellite heavies DirecTV and Dish Network. Comcast in particular may be less enthusiastic about adding Fusion to its channel lineup, as Univision is in direct competition with NBCUniversal’s Telemundo.

Meanwhile, Dish Network last year said it would carry Univision Deportes as well as networks devoted to news and telenovelas. 

Still, the deals that are in place give Fusion a foothold in the top five Hispanic-populated states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Based in Miami, the joint venture was first announced in May 2012. Walt Disney Co. veteran Tom Finn in January signed on as the start-up’s chief financial officer; a CEO is expected to be named soon.

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