Univision, ABC Seek to Launch Hispanic News Network by Election 2012

ABC News and the fast-growing Univision both “feel very good” about closing a deal for the 24-hour new news network

A joint venture by ABC and Univision to launch an English-language cable news channel catering to the growing Hispanic market is expected to launch before the fall election, individuals with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap.

The 24-hour news channel will be based in Miami, those individuals said, and will likely  come in time to mobilize a segment of the population that could be decisive in the presidential election. 

The news channel envisions using already-exisiting reporters and producers from ABC and from Univision.

Also read: News Corp. launches MundoFox, a challenge to Univision & Telemundo

One person close to the negotiation said the deal, first reported on by The Wall Street Journal this week, was “likely” to get done.

“Both sides feel very good about it,” said the individual. “They think it can get done (though) nothing is a slam dunk until papers are signed.”

If so, that may well be because the opportunity is so ripe. The proposed network would cater to one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, and one that is highly underserved in the news department.

The Hispanic population grew by 43 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census, and now totals more than 50 million people.

The venture would be a significant new step in the rising profile of Hispanic Americans, who now outnumber African-Americans as the largest minority in the country.

Univision has announced its own ambitions in recent years, aiming to be bigger than the broadcast networks by 2016. The Hispanic-oriented network regularly beats networks like the CW in the nightly ratings, and it is not that unusual for it to beat the major broadcast networks too.

The new cable news company would be 50-50 owned by each parent company, and create a new channel with fresh clearances across the country. The deal is being negotiated between ABC News chief Ben Sherwood, top Disney executive Kevin Mayer and Univision chief Randy Falco.

But the negotiation has required the involvement of Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger, and Univision CEO Cesar Conde, as well as Haim Saban, whose Saban Capital Group is a leading investor in Univision.

On an earnings call on Tuesday, Iger ducked an analyst’s question about the news channel but did acknowledge that ABC News is always looking for new ventures.

An ABC News spokesman declined to comment on the report. Univision similarly declined to comment.

Univision has long been the leader among Spanish-language broadcasters, an increasingly competitive area of broadcasting.

NBC Universal boasts growing ratings for Telemundo, which secured the rights to the World Cup from 2015 to 2022.

Fox recently announced it was launching Fox Mundo, a new entrant to the Spanish-language market.

While facing those new competitors, this focus on English-language programming represents an entirely new challenge. The network would target the growing number of Hispanics who speak English as a primary language or are bilingual.

For ABC, the network would extend its fierce competition with NBC News to the cable sphere, where MSNBC has been building its audience.

In recent years, MSNBC has battled with CNN for second behind Fox News, besting its cable news rival in the adults 25-54 demo during prime time three years in a row.

One reason the timing of the election is even more significant is that cable news has proven to be the primary form of news gathering for the public during the 2012 campaign. A recent Pew study said that 36 percent of the population gets its election information from cable news, the only major news industry that did not demonstrate a significant decline.