Disney, Univision may launch English-language cable news channel

Walt Disney Co. and Univision Communications Inc., the nation's leading Spanish-language broadcaster, are in talks about launching an English-language cable news channel, according to a person 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 round-the-clock cable news operations, such as News Corp.'s Fox News, Time Warner Inc.'s CNN and Comcast Corp.'s MSNBC. Until now, ABC has shown little appetite for joining the cable news wars. Univision, meanwhile, could use the news channel as another platform to reach English-speaking Latino viewers.

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

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

The nation's Latino population is sizable and fast-growing. Some 50.5 million people described themselves as Latino in the 2010 U.S. census, up from 43% a decade earlier.

Second- and third-generation Latinos also have greater disposable income than their parents or grandparents, making them an attractive 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 at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami. He said Univision would begin to offer English captions for all of its prime-time programs, starting with the telenovela "El Talismán."

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 huge cost of a television news operation.


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