Since last spring, when Univision announced its new channel initiative, the New York media company has been searching for pay-TV companies to carry them. On Monday, Univision and Dish said they had struck a long-term agreement for Dish to carry Univision's planned sports, telenovela and news channels when they go live in the coming months.
"This is a significant deal for Univision," said Tonia O'Connor, Univision's head of distribution, sales and marketing. "We are taking our most popular content and using it to launch cable networks."
The company's planned soap opera or telenovela channel is expected to start March 1 as part of Dish's Latino programming package. Called Univision tlNovelas, the new channel is expected to feature some of the most popular soaps from Mexico's programming powerhouse Grupo Televisa, which has an equity stake in Univision.
The other two channels are scheduled to go live in April. The sports channel, Univision Deportes, will feature Mexican Primera Division soccer matches and live coverage of FIFA events. The companies said the channel will be offered as part of one of Dish's most widely distributed packages, increasing the number of subscribers that will have access to it.
Also scheduled to launch in April is the Spanish-language cable news network Univision Noticias. Designed to provide news from Mexico, Latin America and around the world, it will have more limited distribution, offered on Dish's Latino programming package.
The Univision-Dish deal is part of a trend of major U.S. media companies to bolster offerings that appeal to Latinos, the nation's fastest-growing demographic group. Last month, online video site Hulu announced a programming service to better reach Spanish speakers.
“We are pleased to have reached an innovative deal with Univision for their newest channels and their prime-time novelas on demand,” Dave Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said in a statement.
The deal also represents Univision's first major foray into "authenticated" Internet distribution of its programming through a pay-TV provider. Dish customers will be able to access Univision's content online after registering and verifying that they are paying subscribers. Dish will stream the old telenovelas as part of Dish's Blockbuster@Home package.
-- Meg James
Photo: A scene from "Soy Tu Duena," a popular telenovela that ran on Univision. Credit: Antonio Uribe / Univision