By Douglas Hanks, The Miami Herald
Univision and ABC will base their new English-language cable network in the Miami area, ending the possibility that the venture into Hispanic broadcasting might head for California, New York or Texas, Univision Networks President Cesar Conde confirmed Monday.
Miami was always considered a front-runner for the new 400-person cable network, since Univision’s Spanish-language broadcasting center already has its headquarters in Doral. But the announcement spares Miami from the possibility of a high-profile new player in Hispanic media opting for the television hubs of Los Angeles or New York.
“If there is a place to have a 24-hour network for Hispanics, it’s Miami,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. “I think it’s fantastic, and I think it’s a natural.”
The pairing of the country’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster with ABC’s news division marks a new front in the increasingly competitive battle for the Hispanic audience. NBC now owns Univision’s Spanish-language rival, Telemundo, and in August Fox launched its own Spanish network in Los Angeles, MundoFox. But Univision and ABC plan to pursue a different tack: English content, aimed at Hispanic viewers.
“One of our missions has always been that we are evolving and growing with this community,” Conde said. “We felt an opportunity existed to offer a culturally relevant news product for the Latino community in English.
“Spanish will always be our core offering,” he added. “But we believe that part of our portfolio, there is a need to have English [content] as part of our offerings.”
While only a website now (abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision), the Univision and ABC venture contemplates a new 24-hour network sold to cable providers around the country. Conde described a mix of hard news and soft programming, including daytime fare aimed at lifestyle and cultural topics.
A formal announcement by Gov. Rick Scott is planned for Wednesday at the annual meeting of Miami-Dade County’s economic development agency, the Beacon Council. Conde is keynote speaker.
The Beacon Council helped Univision and ABC secure about $3.5 million in local subsidies for the new network over the next five years. It’s not known how many state incentives the project has been granted. Scott said Univision’s decision to stick close to home with its new venture was not guaranteed.
“There was a lot of competition,” he said.
Documents filed with Miami-Dade County project a payroll of about 350 people within five years, with the partnership spending about $275 million to set up the network. Conde said he hopes to have the network available for viewing on cable and satellite by the summer of 2013.
The documents also suggest the network will be constructing a 150,000-square-foot headquarters, a facility that would be too large for Univision’s current facility at Doral. That studio is home to some of the most popular shows broadcast in Spanish: the al Punto Sunday morning news show, as well as the dance contest Mira Quien Baila and variety show, Sabado Gigante.
Univision is expected to find a location near its current headquarters, if not next to it. While Univision produces English content for its website, news.univision.com, Conde said the ABC venture will be its first entry into English-language broadcasting.
Univision’s Spanish-language news division pulled off a coup last month by securing back-to-back interviews with President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney at the University of Miami, both before live audiences. Univision anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas asked questions of the candidates in Spanish, which were then translated into English.
A summary of the proposed headquarters prepared by the Beacon Council said Univision and ABC also were considering basing the network in Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Conde said the joint venture, which will report to a board established by Univision and ABC parent Disney, explored setting up shop in other states with large Hispanic populations.
Univision is the nation’s leading Spanish-language broadcaster, and its hometown rival, NBC’s Telemundo, holds the No. 2 slot. NBC bought Telemundo for about $2.7 billion in 2002.
The new network — Conde said its name will be revealed later — will offer programming in English that’s designed for a Latin audience that doesn’t speak Spanish. Conde said the network’s programmers also has another audience on their mind: non-Hispanics interested in what’s influencing Hispanics.
“The impact and increasing influence from the Latino community is something that has been growing across political and social and economic and cultural fronts,” he said. “The secondary target is clearly an appeal to non-Hispanics who are interested in Latino issues and culture.”