'Comedians are the new public intellectuals': Why Univision took a bite of The Onion

Univision has a head start on the most unlikely deal of 2016.

The Spanish-language media giant has acquired a minority stake The Onion. Valued at less than $200 million, the deal gives Univision a 40 percent stake in The Onion’s parent company, with the option of buying the publisher outright in the future, according to The New York Times.

The deal comes at a time when Univision is aggressively pushing to diversify its business beyond the Spanish-language TV content it has historically been known for.It’s not just doing more English-language content either, as Univision has placed an internal focus on owning different content verticals that resonate with millennial audiences.

Last May, the company acquired African-American news and culture site The Root. In the past several years, it also launched two English-language cable channels, Fusion and El Rey. Univision has also been building several digital businesses, including the digital arm of Fusion, the UCN YouTube network and the streaming comedy channel Flama.

“Comedians are seen as the new public intellectuals. That is because they are seen as more real, authentic and able to cut through all the crap that is out there,” said Isaac Lee, Univision’s chief news and digital officer, in a staff memo circulated this morning. “The Onion is the master of that. They’ve been doing it longer and better than anyone else.”

While Onion Inc. will continue to operate independently, Univision will assist the publisher in growing its distribution footprint and ad-sales capabilities. The two companies will also aim to create new content, both in short- and long-form formats, for each Onion brand across digital and linear platforms.

For an example of how this might work, look no further than a deal signed by Fusion and The Root to create original content for the cable network. The first content from this deal is expected to launch sometime in 2016.

Main image via Univision