Disney's ABC Sells Fusion Stake to Univision

Fusion Media Group - H 2016
Courtesy of Fusion

Univision's Fusion Media Group will include The Onion and other digital properties.

Disney and Univision are ending their joint ownership of cable network Fusion. 

Disney, which owns a stake in Fusion via ABC, has agreed to transition ownership to Univision, the companies announced Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As the majority owner of Fusion, Univision Communications Inc. (UCI) will create a separate media group that will include recently acquired The Onion and other digital properties. Univision also will take over ABC's role in handling distribution and ad sales for Fusion's multiplatform network and will have editorial control. 

In a memo to staff that The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, Fusion CEO Isaac Lee notes that the deal "is a testament to the value Fusion brings to Univision and its efforts to reach new diverse audiences in culture and in language." 

Lee, who also serves as chief news and digital officer at Univision, writes that the company has built on its Fusion foundation to expand its portfolio of brands that reach "young, diverse audiences" and notes that "as UCI's larger multicultural efforts began to take shape last year, we began conversations about the potential of bringing Fusion fully into the fold."

Lee will continue to oversee Fusion, promoting Daniel Eilemberg to the role of president and chief content officer and naming Boris Gartner as president and chief operating officer.

As Fusion's sole owner, Univision will form the Fusion Media Group, which will include the El Rey network as well as The Onion, A.V. Club, Clickhole, digital network Flama, The Root, Starwipe, Univision Digital and Univision Music. The company describes the new division as a multiplatform destination with an "authentic voice and a convention-breaking, youthful perspective."  

Univision and ABC launched Fusion in 2013 as a home for millennial-focused news, lifestyle, pop culture and entertainment content, at first focusing on Latino audiences before broadening its focus. The business, which operates a digital newsroom as well as the cable channel, airs shows including The Chris Gethard Show and America With Jorge Ramos.

The network is not rated by Nielsen but claims an audience of 27 million across all platforms. But the venture has yet to make money. Univision reported in February that it invested $11.5 million in Fusion and $5.6 million in the development of Fusion's digital business during 2015, while it also recognized losses of $22.1 million last year related to its share of Fusion's net losses. 

While ABC has handled distribution and sales, sources inside Fusion say that the company has aligned more closely on the editorial side with Univision.

"Our companies have gained valuable knowledge from each other over the past several years and we are proud of what we have built together in a short period time," a joint statement from ABC and Univision reads. "The mutual bonds created between our teams will remain."

Fusion will continue to work with ABC News on Nightline on Fusion and with ESPN for the simulcasting of The Dan LeBatard Show

Univision CEO Randy Falco said in a statement that it "is an important time for UCI as we continue to evolve as a company to meet and exceed the demands of the cross-cultural influencers we serve. Fully integrating Fusion into our portfolio closely aligns with our desire to engage with our growing audience wherever they are, whenever they want and in their language of preference." 

Univision says the transaction will be completed "as soon as reasonably practical."