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Disney Disconnects From Fusion JV

Just before Christmas 2015, financial news network CNBC reported that The Walt Disney Co.’s two-year-old joint venture agreement with Univision Communications for the English-language multicultural millennial-focused Fusion network was likely to end.

The Financial Times noted in its coverage that Univision could acquire Disney’s 50% stake in Fusion.

On April 21, that scenario became reality, as Univision said it had reached an agreement with Disney-owned ABC to become the sole owner of Fusion. Effective immediately, Univision assumed ABC’s distribution and ad-sales functions for the multiplatform Fusion. It also assumed full editorial control of Fusion content.

“The transition of ownership will happen once the transaction is completed, which is expected to be as soon as reasonably practical,” Univision said in a formal statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fusion was launched in October 2013 with such journalistic heavyweights as Jorge Ramos and Alicia Menendez hosting English-language programs targeting bilingual and bicultural Latinos. Today, Fusion considers itself a multicultural millennial entertainment and information hub that super-serves Hispanics.

While Fusion has had distribution challenges for its cable television channel, it has flourished on digital platforms. In a statement made by Isaac Lee, Fusion’s CEO, in October 2015, he told staffers that the Fusion brand “is now reaching 25 million people a month.”

Now that Fusion is wholly owned by Univision, the company has housed it under the newly formed Fusion Media Group (FMG). “FMG will serve as the multiplatform destination for the new, rising American mainstream, delivering content that embodies the audience’s shared values and passion points across all platforms,” Univision said.

Aside from Fusion, FMG will include the Robert Rodriguez-launched El Rey Network, which specializes in action and “grindhouse-style content”; African-American news and information website The Root; and satirical news publication The Onion.

Also housed under FMG are three Onion-affiliated entities — spinoff entertainment-themed blog A.V. Club, viral content parody site Clickhole and phony gossip portal Starwipe — as well as Univision Digital and associated platform Flama; and Univision Music.

The latter entity should not be confused with Univision Music Group, now a part of Universal Music Latin Entertainment.

“This is an important time for Univision Communications, as we continue to evolve as a company to meet and exceed the demands of the cross-cultural influencers that we serve,” president and CEO Randy Falco said. “FMG is extremely well positioned to reach this young, diverse audience at scale and with passion, irreverence and authenticity. It will define and lead the zeitgeist of American youth.”

While Disney did not offer comment of its divestment in Fusion, it is interesting to note that in January 2016 ABC Family rebranded as Freeform in an effort to attract a larger segment of millennial viewers — matching Fusion’s desired consumer target.