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Univision wants to get out of the English-language website business

Univision Communications Inc. headquarters in Doral, Florida.
Univision Communications Inc. headquarters in Doral, Florida.

Univision Communications Inc. (UCI), the Spanish-language TV giant that has been struggling to keep pace with the changing tastes of the evolving U.S. Hispanic audience, wants to get out of the English-language website business.

Univision has hired Morgan Stanley as a financial advisor to explore the potential sale of Gizmodo Media Group (GMG), a suite of websites that include The AV Club, Gizmodo, The Root, Jezebel and Deadspin, and its majority stake in the comedy/satire website The Onion.

“The Company determined that pursuing a sale of GMG and The Onion collectively will allow UCI to focus on its core assets and further strengthen UCI’s position as the No. 1 media company serving U.S. Hispanics, while enabling both GMG and The Onion even greater opportunities to grow under new ownership,” Univision said in a statement.

In 2016, Univision acquired a majority stake in The Onion and paid $135 million for the websites that comprised the former Gawker Media Group, which included The AV Club, The Root, Jezebel and Deadspin. Univision used the acquisitions to launch Fusion Media Group,a multiplatform endeavor aimed at attracting the elusive U.S. millennial audience.

But the ambitious gamble didn’t pay off, resulting in widespread layoffs and the rescinding of an IPO offering that had been in the planning stages for several years.

The changes come at a time when Telemundo, a division of NBC/Universal Hispanic Enterprises and Content, has eaten away at Univision’s longstanding ratings dominance. Univision continues to have the largest overall audience in Spanish-language broadcasting, according to Nielsen ratings.

In March, a consulting group hired by Univision recommended that the Fusion Media Group’s budget be slashed by more than a third and also recommended more layoffs.

In an email distributed to employees on Tuesday afternoon, Univision CEO Vincent Sandusky characterized the decision to explore the liquidation of the company’s English-language digital assets as a necessary step in focusing on Univision’s chief demographic — U.S. Hispanics.

“I read The Onion regularly in college and the many great Gizmodo brands have become key sources for content to tens of millions of consumers,” Sandusky wrote in his email. “In the world of digital content players, these brands have withstood a tough marketplace and emerged as longstanding, recognized sources of news, information and entertainment in their verticals.

“I know GMG and The Onion have been through significant change since we acquired the assets,” Sandusky wrote. “While they have had success with us, there is no doubt in my mind that they can thrive even more as part of a company whose focus aligns better with theirs. Likewise, it is important for Univision to exit a business which does not enhance our core mission, and instead refocus on our strengths.”

Sandusky took over as Univision CEO on June 1, replacing Randy Falco, who had served in the post since 2010.

According to its first quarter 2018 report, Univision’s quarterly revenue was $684.2 million, a drop of 1.2 percent. Advertising revenue was $369.6 million, a 6.5 percent drop.

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