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Univision, like HBO and Showtime, offers own stand-alone Internet streaming service

Univision, like HBO and Showtime, offers own stand-alone Internet streaming service
Univision's new service provides live streams of its two over-the-air broadcast TV networks — Univision and UniMás — but not the company's popular cable TV channels. (Reed Saxon / AP)

Univision Communications has jumped into the Internet streaming service market by offering its own $5.99-a-month service called Univision Now.

The company joins a growing field of major networks, including HBO, CBS, Showtime, NBC, the Tennis Channel and Smithsonian Channel, in experimenting with stand-alone streaming services to enable viewers to watch programming on their cellphones, tablets and computers.

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Univision's new service provides live streams of its two over-the-air broadcast TV networks — Univision and UniMás — but not the company's popular cable TV channels.

"Our target audience is over-the-air viewers who have never subscribed to pay-TV," Tonia O'Connor, president of content distribution for Univision, said in an interview.

Univision recognizes that a majority of its Latino viewers watch its main broadcast networks, which are accessible for free with an antenna. Univision also did not want to undercut the efforts of its distribution partners, the pay-TV companies, which have introduced so-called TV Everywhere apps to enable customers to watch a full complement of programming on mobile devices. TV Everywhere users must certify that they subscribe to pay-TV to access the content on their phones and tablets.

"The challenge with that [TV Everywhere] service is that it left many of our viewers on the sidelines, and we needed to find a way to provide them with the same level of access," O'Connor said.

Latinos spend more time on their smartphones — 36% higher usage per week — than the overall market, according to a recent Nielsen audience report. They spend an average of about 12 hours a month watching online video, Nielsen said.

Univision is the fifth largest broadcast network in the U.S.

Viewers in the Los Angeles market will be able to watch local newscasts of KMEX-TV Channel 34, Univision's flagship station, as part of the Univision Now service. Another feature enables subscribers to watch prime-time programs, including Univision's popular telenovelas, for up to seven days after the episode aired — allowing casual viewers to get caught up on their favorite soaps.

Subscribers also can opt for an annual subscription for $59.99 rather than the month-to-month payment plan.

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