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Disney and Univision in talks for English-language news channel

February 6, 2012 |  7:47 pm


The Walt Disney Co. and the nation's leading Spanish-language broadcaster are in talks to launch an English-language cable news channel, according to people familiar with the matter.

A new 24-hour channel would represent a move by both companies to enter new territory. Disney's ABC News could compete for viewers with established around-the-clock cable news operations such as News Corp.'s Fox News, Time Warner's CNN and Comcast Corp.'s MSNBC. Until now, ABC has shown little appetite for joining the cable news wars.

Univision Communications, which owns the nation's fifth-largest TV network, could use the channel to reach more acculturated viewers that advertisers prefer: Latinos who predominately speak English.  Univision has already announced plans to launch a cable news network, this one a Spanish-language channel, later this spring.

A Univision spokeswoman declined to comment, as did an ABC spokesman.

ABC has struggled to be more competitive and has shed hundreds of staff members from its ABC News division because the network produces only a few newscasts. NBC News correspondents provide coverage to multiple channels, allowing the network to better monetize costs.

The discussions were first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, but no deal is imminent, said one knowledgeable person. 

The nation's Latino population is sizable and fast-growing. Nearly 50 million people described themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the 2010 U.S. Census, up 43% from a decade ago.   

Second- and third-generation Latinos also have greater disposable income than their parents or grandparents, making them an atrractive and underserved audience. Targeting these viewers would help differentiate the channel from more established cable competitors.

Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, addressed his desire to court bilingual viewers in a keynote speech he gave last month during the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami. Univision has begun offering English captions for all of its prime-time telenovelas.

As envisioned, ABC and Univision would share news gathering and production costs. Disney would also stand to collect subscriber fees from cable operators, helping to underwrite the heavy cost of a television news operation.


Univision plans three new cable TV channels

Dish Network to distribute Univision channels

Univision telenovelas with a twist: English subtitles

Photo: ABC's "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer. Credit: ABC.

— Dawn C. Chmielewski and Meg James


In the 2010 Census, 50.5 million people said they were Hispanic or Latino. That’s up from 43% from 35.3 million in 2000.  That help