Two Reasons Why Disney and Univision Are Interested In Launching A Cable Channel

By Alex Weprin 

The news that Disney and Univision are in talks to possibly launch a cable news channel targeting English-speaking Hispanics shouldn’t come as a surprise. Univision has already announced its intention to launch a 24-hour news channel, and ABC News has long been looking for some sort of partner to help amortize its costs.

But here are two other reasons why the companies may be planning the channel: Hispanic news programming skews much younger than the traditional TV news outlets, and a Hispanic-targeted network will have an easier time gaining cable distribution, the bane of every network executive’s existence.

It is no secret that TV news viewers skew old… often very old. Your average Fox News viewer is 65, CNN viewer is 63 and MSNBC viewer is 59. Only in TV news would a 50-year-old qualify as someone in the “younger viewer” 25-54 demographic.

Among young Hispanics, however, news seems to be much more popular. As we have noted, Univision’s nightly newscast has more viewers age 18-34 than every network newscast, save for “NBC Nightly News.” During many weeks, Univision even tops NBC in that demo.

In other words, young Hispanics may be more inclined to watch TV news than other young viewers.

With regard to distribution:

The New York Times reports that “Univision would rely on Disney’s negotiating heft to get the carriage agreements.” That is undoubtedly true, as Disney has a suite of high-profile cable outlets to use as leverage in negotiations.

In addition to that, however, the channel would have the added benefit of being an independent network targeting a minority audience. Comcast, as part of its acquisition of NBC Universal, promised to add more independent networks, particularly independent networks targeting minority viewers.

By focusing on a particular niche, Disney and Univision may have an easier time securing distribution. If not on basic cable, than on the Spanish-language packages, which are among the fastest-growing and best-selling packages sold. Once a channel secures carriage on a premium tier, it can make moves toward lower tiers when new deals come up for review.

The Disney/Univision network isn’t going to come out of the gate targeting CNN, and they probably won’t be competing for Fox News and MSNBC’s politics-heavy audience. Rather, the companies are using the traditional cable model of targeting a niche audience, and serving them as best they can. That is how CNBC started, that is how Fox News started, that is how ESPN started.

After those networks launched however, it became clear that the “niche” was much larger than anticipated, and they expanded. This new channel, should it come to pass, is certainly hoping for the same result.