WSJ: Disney, Univision In Talks to Launch 24-Hour English Language News Channel

By Chris Ariens 

Fifteen years after exploring the idea of a 24-hour news channel, ABC News may soon find itself back in the cable game. The Wall Street Journal is reporting ABC’s parent The Walt Disney Co. and Univision Communications Inc. are in talks to create an English language news channel… and it could be launched before the November elections.

The new channel would plunge Disney’s ABC News more directly into the fractious cable-news wars, competing alongside Time Warner Inc’s CNN, News Corp.’s Fox News and Comcast Corp.’s MSNBC. And it would mark a big strategic shift for Univision, which since its beginnings five decades ago has been defined by its Spanish broadcasts, but which will now compete for English speakers.

WSJ reports the talks have been lead by ABC News President Ben Sherwood and Univision Networks President Cesar Conde. ABC News is not commenting on the report.

The deal looks good on paper. It will begin to amortize the costs of ABC News, (while creating many long days for ABC Newsers.) Disney has proven cable clout. And Univision, which boasts its own news division and studios in Miami, provides an attractive and growing young audience: 1-in-5 American schoolchildren is Hispanic, 1-in-4 newborns is Hispanic.

Univision Communications CEO Randy Falco has been here before. He was president of NBC Broadcasting when his network, along with Microsoft, launched MSNBC in 1996. ABC News abandoned plans in May of that year to launch its own news channel after NBC and News Corp. ramped up plans for MSNBC and Fox News Channel. Falco was also instrumental in NBC’s acquisition of Univision competitor Telemundo in 2002.