The Financial Times Writes About Univision's Acquisition of African-American News Website, 'The Root'

May 26, 2015

Univision buys African-American news site The Root

Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US, has bought The Root, an African-American focused news and culture website, as the company looks to build a digital network catering to multicultural millennial consumers.

Univision has been expanding its digital footprint to reach a younger, more diverse generation of Americans who use their mobile phones rather than traditional television for information and entertainment. Two years ago, it launched Fusion, an English-language news and lifestyle TV network and website that is a joint venture with Walt Disney.

At the same time, competitors such as Vice Media, the youth-oriented media brand, have built large youth audiences online and are striking deals to bring their programming to TV.

“Like Univision, The Root aims to serve a significant segment of America’s diverse population. Our diverse communities are continuing to define the fabric of the country, from buying power, to social influence, to elections,” said Isaac Lee, Univision’s president of news and digital and chief executive of Fusion.

Millennial consumers, aged 18 to 34, will surpass the baby boomers this year to become the US’s largest generational group. They are also the most racially diverse segment of the US population and are more likely than their older peers to consider themselves politically independent, according to the Pew Research Center.

Multicultural Americans are particularly attractive to advertisers as they are the fastest growing group in the US and have a younger median age than white Americans, according to Nielsen. The combined purchasing power of African-Americans and Hispanics is more than $2.3tn, Univision said.

Fusion says its website averages about 5m visitors a month, while its TV network reaches under 40m US homes. It is developing original video shows for Snapchat’s Discover section and is a partner on Spotify’s new video service.

The Root also reaches an average of 5m unique users per month, according to ComScore. It was launched in 2008 by Henry Louis Gates Jr, the Harvard professor, and Donald Graham, chief executive of Graham Holdings and former owner of the Washington Post.

It had been operating as part of Graham Holdings’ Slate Group and will use Univision’s digital production and publishing infrastructure but retain editorial control.

“The combination of our two companies strengthens our collective ability to engage the changing American population,” said Donna Byrd, The Root’s publisher. “In addition, it will provide The Root access to greater resources, as well as an opportunity to expand our reach and scale our business.”

The companies did not disclose the value of the deal.

Univision is gearing up to raise more than $1bn in an initial public offering that could value the company at as much as $20bn including debt, according to people familiar with the situation.

Earlier this month, the company, which is owned by a consortium of private equity groups, appointed Frank Lopez-Balboa, a Goldman Sachs veteran with an extensive media financing background, as chief financial officer.

Source: Financial Times – @shannonpareil – @FTMedia


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