Univision slices into ‘Onion’ ownership

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Spanish-language TV giant Univision announced it acquired a controlling stake of The Onion, the humor site whose fictitious headlines have fooled many a politician.

Onion Inc. CEO Mike McAvoy confirmed the deal “with what might at first seem like an unusual partner,” in a staff memo Tuesday, adding that Univision Communications Inc. will have the option to purchase the company in full in the future. The Onion includes pop-culture site The A.V. Club, celebrity parody site StarWipe, and Clickhole, a satirical riff on viral Buzzfeed content.

Although McAvoy didn’t elaborate on the details of the deal, media outlets, including the Financial Times, have reported that Univision has bought a 40 percent stake in The Onion.

The Onion, founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1988, stopped publishing a print edition in late 2013. The Chicago-based website has continued online operations since.

Isaac Lee, Univision’s chief new and digital officer, said The Onion’s humor was a way to reach and inform young audiences. Maybe the company’s yearslong fascination of Vice President Joe Biden as a shirtless, ponytailed, buffalo wing lover proved too enticing to pass up.

“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,” Lee said.

“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,” he said.

Tuesday’s announcement is the next in a line of attempts for Univision to reach younger audiences. In 2013, Univision partnered with ABC to launch Fusion, a cable TV channel aimed at reaching young Latinos who have increasingly consumed media in English.

Last year, Univision acquired The Root, a African-American news and commentary site that was founded by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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