ABC News and Univision on Monday announced a joint venture to create an English-language news network aimed at Latinos that will offer online content this summer and be on television next year.
The venture, which does not have a name yet, is aimed at establishing a beachhead within one segment of the rapidly growing Latino marketplace: those people born in the United States who prefer to get their news in English.
"It's not the future of America," said ABC News President Ben Sherwood. "It's the present of America."
Univision is the nation's largest Spanish-language media company and it already provides news content in Spanish, as does the NBC Universal-owned Telemundo. CNN En Espanol is a 24-hour Spanish-language network. The ABC-Univision venture stakes new ground with programming in English.
Sherwood said he met with Univision President Cesar Conde and Univision News President Isaac Lee more than a year ago to discuss ways to cover the presidential election together. The discussion quickly expanded, although the new TV network won't be operating in time for this fall's campaign.
"We began to imagine all sorts of possibilities," Sherwood said. "As Cesar said, we began to dream some big dreams."
The companies would not say how much money they will sink into the joint venture. Both said some of their current employees will be involved in putting the network together, and Sherwood said there would be some new hires.
Although the content is still being determined, the networks said that lifestyle and entertainment programming will be included along with news.
Univision produces a Spanish-language national newscast at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, competing directly with the ABC, CBS and NBC broadcasts, and also makes a late-evening newscast. Most of the network's 62 local stations also produce their own newscasts.
For the first time over the past decade, census data indicates that U.S.-born Latinos are now outpacing immigrants who came from other countries, according to the Pew Hispanic Network. Some 24 percent of Latino households now report that their primary language is English, said Mark Hugo Lopez of Pew.
These second-generation Latinos maintain knowledge of Spanish to communicate with older relatives, "but not necessarily to keep up with current events," said Louis DeSipio, a professor at the University of California at Irvine with an emphasis on Latino issues.
In recent months, both NBC and Fox have launched websites in English devoted to the Latino marketplace.
The Fox and Univision executives say they hope the network attracts non-Latinos interested in what issues are important to this demographic, along with the Latino audience.
"We believe it is important to act as a bridge between the Latino community and the overall population," Conde said.
Disney and ABC Television Group chairwoman Anne Sweeney said the venture is an important step in broadening ABC's reach.
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