Univision isn’t kidding around in its quest to gather up younger, English-speaking audiences. The Spanish-language TV network will purchase a controlling stake in satirical media company the Onion, NPR reported Tuesday. Univision will buy 40 percent of the company for an undisclosed price. Neither company commented on the report.
Quite unlike Univision, the Onion is best known as a purveyor of satire. The company, which began as a print publication in Madison, Wisconsin, has grown into a substantial digital media player that attracts more than 30 million viewers to its sites every month, which include the Onion, Clickhole and the A.V. Club.
The company has also built a separate reputation in the advertising world as a generator of highly sought-after sponsored content; it makes more than 80 percent of its revenue through Onion Labs, an in-house advertising agency. It’s unclear just how much money that amounts to — executives at the Onion typically note that the company is profitable without getting into specific figures.
Univision, which has been privately owned by a collection of parties including Haim Saban, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG and Thomas H. Lee Partners since 2007, has been a giant in the world of Spanish-language broadcasting. In documents prepared ahead of its planned initial public offering, the company says it has been the most-watched Spanish-language television network in the U.S. since 1992, and that its media assets reach 86 percent of the country's Hispanic population.
What it wants, however, and what may have motivated its Onion acquisition, is a bigger share of the millennial audience. Its biggest bid for a younger demographic, Fusion, a television network created in partnership with the Walt Disney Company, has had serious difficulty attracting readers online and loyalty among viewers. In late December, word emerged that Disney was looking to sell Univision its stake.
The broadcaster had originally planned to launch its IPO in the early fall, according to the Wall Street Journal, but an ugly environment for media stocks caused the board to hold off. Shortly before Christmas, word trickled out that Univision had resolved to launch in the first part of 2016 instead. Its IPO will be underwritten by several investment banks, including Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. The company, which made $2.9 billion in revenue in 2014, says it is worth at least $20 billion.