Univision Buys... 'The Onion'?

It may be one of the least-obvious media deals ever to transpire. Spanish-language broadcast channel Univision has acquired a controlling interest in The Onion, a satirical news publisher.

“What?” you may be forgiven for asking. Yes, it’s true: Mike McAvoy, CEO Of The Onion, has apparently confirmed the news in an internal memo to staffers, also cited by NPR, which first reported the news.

“Univision is excited to help Onion Inc. grow, and to provide the resources to both support our long-standing mission and fund new initiatives. They'll help us keep the foundation strong and to build great new things on top of it. As an independent media company, we've always been forced to run a tight financial ship, which has made us smart and lean, but not always ready to invest in the great new ideas that we come up with.”

Under the terms of the deal, Univision is acquiring a 40% controlling stake in The Onion and its various related properties, including Clickhole, satirizing clickbait; Starwipe, mocking celebrity news; and The A.V. Club, which publishes reviews of movies, shows, music, and other cultural productions.

The two media companies seem at first glance to have precisely nothing to do with each other — and that’s the point. Univision is buying The Onion, in part, because of its substantial millennial following. Its own broadcast TV audience ages.

Indeed, this isn’t Univision’s first online publishing acquisition with a youthful skew. Last year, it bought The Root, a publisher targeting millennial African-Americans.

Humor also plays a key part in Univision’s strategy for Fusion, its joint venture with ABC, now reverting to Univision’s sole control. It aims to capture some of the momentum enjoyed by popular satirical news programs like "The Daily Show" and "Daily Show" alumnus John Oliver’s show on HBO.

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