Disney Looks to Sell Fusion Stake to Univision

Walt Disney Co. is looking to sell its stake in new media brand Fusion to co-owner Univision, according to published reports Tuesday.

The two-year-old venture, which is focused on serving news and lifestyle content to millennials, is a mix of digital properties and a cable network. Disney and Univision declined comment.

Univision, the largest owner of Latino-centric content in the U.S., was a natural partner for Fusion when it first launched in 2013 with more of an emphasis on attracting Latinos stateside. But Fusion eventually pivoted to chase a broader audience, one it hasn’t so clearly connected with as the venture has been criticized for not resonating in the marketplace.

Fusion is one of many upstart digital brands including Vice Media, Buzzfeed and Vox that have attracted considerable buzz and conglomerate investment dollars for their ability to reach younger consumers who are slipping away from more establishment media options. Fusion had the advantage of a channel business that even without some major distribution partners like Comcast was capable of throwing off enough cash to smooth the rough road of subsisting on digital dollars.

In the past year, Fusion’s rivals have made strides to diversify their revenue streams. Vice, which just last week saw increased investment from Disney, announced its first cable channel earlier this year. Buzzfeed and Vox drew investment from Comcast, which is expected to integrate those brands in some way to its own linear-networks holdings.

Univision sees Fusion as the cornerstone of its strategy to court English-speaking Latino millennials with digital content. Isaac Lee, the exec who has steered the launch of Fusion, was promoted last month to the post of chief digital and news officer of Univision with a mandate to grow the company’s digital footprint with brands such as Fusion and its offshoot the Root.

When contacted last week, Univision declined to comment on the status of its partnership with Disney on Fusion. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Tuesday.

Unclear at this juncture is how much Disney’s stake in Fusion is worth. The Journal reported that Univision buying Disney’s portion is just one scenario that could play out.

Andrew Wallenstein Variety.com