Univision, ABC teaming for English-language news channel for Hispanics

Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 08-02-2012

Spanish-language network Univision is in talks with ABC to launch an English-language cable news channel aimed at the growing pool of Hispanics who call English their first language.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the talks on Monday. The idea is to take on entrenched 24-hour cable news networks like FOX, MSNBC and CNN with a mix of content that would appeal to the mainstream but offer enough niche coverage to dominate as the go-to Hispanic news outlet. Univision has seen the evolution of its audience over the last few years as children of immigrants go on to have children of their own.
In fact, bilingual Hispanics make up 82% of the total United States Hispanic population. This commuity retains a deep sense of Hispanic identity and tradition, but it is thought may feel more comfortable watching English-language programming. Recently, Univision added English subtitles to its popular primetime telenovelas in a nod to this phenomenon.
The advantages of such a tie-up are myriad. For one, an English channel for Hispanics would be attractive to advertisers wanting to reach this demographic but who are unwilling to produce separate ads in Spanish. Also, the partnership with a known news power like ABC would lend Univision some legitimacy in the enterprise. Conversely, ABC would be able to share the cost of gaining a cable news foothold, something that rivals FOX and NBC already have, while reaping the associated additional carriage revenue (ABC already owns Disney and ESPN).
As for obstacles, there is one significant one that the parties should note: the cable landscape is lousy with news networks, and pay-TV operators may be reluctant to pay to add yet another news channel to the basic tier. If the channel is relegated to a premium tier, it could be the kiss of death for the venture since ratings--and therefore eyeballs for advertisers--would be necessarily compromised. It's possible that ABC could use its Disney/ESPN clout to persuade operators to carry the channel, but with the latter's carriage fees claiming the enviable title of most expensive in the cable universe, how effective that clout could be is under question.
In the field, subscribers can already choose from CNN and CNN Headline News, FOX News, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX Business, Bloomberg, the progressive liberal channel Current (often available only in a premium tier) and even CSPAN. International entrants are there as well, including ZEE News, BBC World and, in New York, Al Jazeera English. But all of these lack one significant aspect: a focus on Hispanic issues and events. That could very well be the ace in the hole that ABC and Univision need to make this a success from a content licensing perspective.