By Austin Cassidy
Odds are you know of Univision as the top Spanish-language broadcast network in America. But over the last three years the company has evolved — a lot.
Not so long ago, Univision’s primary business was beaming out soapy Spanish-language telenovellas and loud variety shows.
Under the leadership of former AOL executive Randy Falco, the company has transformed with greatly expanded news coverage and a new focus on building a digital media empire.
First came Fusion, a 24-hour news and variety channel that was formed as a partnership with Disney in 2013.
Aimed at second and third-generation Latinos who primarily speak English, the new cable network also makes most of its programming available on their website and via social media.
After a couple years, Univision bought out Disney’s stake and is now doubling-down on an expansion of Fusion’s digital assets.
The company has also heavily invested in the El Rey Network, a cable channel with an entertainment lineup that prominently features Hispanic talent. Original shows like From Dusk Till Dawn rotate alongside Kung Fu movies, “grindhouse” horror, and lighter science fiction fare.
But the company knows that TV is changing.
Univision’s Big Digital Bet
In 2015, Univision acquired TheRoot.com, a popular website focused on African-American issues. It was a first step towards broadening the company’s digital portfolio.
They then kicked things into high gear in 2016, building out the Fusion Media Group subsidiary with a number of high profile moves.
First, they purchased a large stake in satirical news website The Onion, which also operates popular entertainment hub AV Club. Rumors are that the deal cost them less than $200 million and gives the company access to a pool of talent that can be mined for Fusion’s television platform.
This week, Univision took things a step further with an agreement to buy Gawker’s network of popular blogs for $135 million. Those sites in the sports, tech, and lifestyle verticals capture a combined 50 million unique visits monthly.
Some have speculated that the Gawker acquisition is the final piece Univision needs in order to justify an IPO.
Going public would potentially give the company bundles of fresh cash that they could use to shop for new media properties.