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Univision bites into The Onion

Univision Communications Inc. is getting into the funny business.

The media giant, which owns the largest Spanish-language TV network in the U.S., announced Tuesday it had become a minority investor in Onion Inc., the Chicago-based digital media company best known for its satirical news site The Onion. Along with its other popular websites (including The A.V. Club and Clickhole), Onion Inc. draws more than 25 million unique visitors a month.

Univision officials declined to comment on the specifics of the transaction. A report by NPR.org citing inside sources claimed Univision acquired a 40 percent controlling stake in Onion Inc., with an option to buy the entire company.

According to a press release issued by Univision, Onion Inc. will continue to operate independently.

Although a union between Univision and the Onion initially sounds odd, the acquisition makes sense for Univision. The company, which owns 16 networks and 61 TV stations, has been aggressively expanding its English-language digital portfolio, courting the growing demographic of young Hispanics born and raised in the U.S..

Fusion, the Doral-based network aimed at millennials that was launched in 2013 in partnership with the Disney-owned ABC News, has refocused its strategy to concentrate on the presidential election and comedy. In January, the network, which now reaches 40 million homes via TV, hosted the Iowa Brown and Black Forum with Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley. The website’s traffic has also grown to 10 million unique visitors a month. Last year, Univision also acquired The Root.com, a news and culture site aimed at African-Americans.

Disney is currently in negotiations to pull out of the Fusion partnership, and Univision has been preparing to unveil its initial public stock offering since 2015. The Onion partnership will provide Univision with new platforms to showcase its online content, which is generated in-house.

“Comedy is playing an expanding role in our culture as a vehicle for audiences to explore, debate, and understand the important ideas of our time,” said Isaac Lee, Chief News and Digital Officer of Univision and CEO of Fusion via a press release. “It has also proven to be an incredibly engaging format for millennial audiences, and is expected to play a key part in the 2016 presidential election process via our robust content offerings in Spanish and English.

“Onion Inc. has remained successful by putting editorial first,” said Mike McAvoy, president and CEO at Onion Inc. “We're excited to partner with Univision, a company that understands and appreciates that foundation, and that can provide additional resources, expertise, and opportunity for our talented staff.”

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