Univision is the oldest and largest Spanish-language television network in the United States, the fifth most-watched network in the United States when counted among the English-language networks, and perhaps one of the most high-profile, profitable, and longest-lasting symbols of Latino/Hispanic culture within the United States. Its origins trace back to KCOR (now KWEX-DT, Channel 41), the first all-Spanish-language television station airing within the US, which went on the air in 1955 in San Antonio, Texas. Failed to turn a profit, KCOR would soon fall under the ownership of one Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta, founder of the Mexican network Televisa, and Emilio Nicolas Sr., the son-in-law of KCOR's founder Raul Cortez, and producer of some of the station's variety shows.
The SIN/Televisa era (1962-1987)
After acquiring KCOR, Nicolas and Vidaurreta turned the station around. In 1962 they made KCOR, along with affiliates in Los Angeles (KMEX-DT, Channel 34) and Paterson, New Jersey (WXTV-DT, Channel 41), the nucleus of the new Spanish International Network, the US' first all-Spanish TV network. The unfortunately-acronymically-named SIN expanded into Miami, Chicago and across the western US over the next couple of decades, and made it onto cable and satellite systems during The '70s in order to gain a national reach. SIN soon became the largest Spanish-language TV network in the US, thanks at least in part to its close relationship with the preexisting Mexican media powerhouse Televisa, which Vidaurreta also owned.
In 1987, Nicolas sold his share of the network, leaving it firmly in the hands of Vidaurreta and Televisa. This prompted the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether SIN's relationship with Televisa skirted the boundaries of media ownership laws, as many of SIN's competitors were alleging. That same year, Televisa's management's attempted to have SIN produce and broadcast a news program with Jacobo Zabludosky out of Miami, which caused half of the Miami staff (many of them Cuban exiles) to walk out in protest of what they saw as Zabludosky's soft views on Castro's Cuba. The end result was Televisa selling its share of SIN - now renamed to the bilingually-pronounceable, eternally-more-marketable Univision - to an American consortium led by Hallmark Cards, which had previously purchased some of Nicolas' share in the network.
The Univision era (1987-present)
The ink was barely dry off the deal when Univision created three of its most defining programs: the morning show Mundo Latino (Latino World), Chilean TV personality Don Francisco's frantic, long-running Variety Show Sábado Gigante (Big Saturday), and the women's TV news magazine TV Mujer (Woman TV). Starting in 1993, under the stewardship of new owner Jerry Perenchio, its designs grew to a national scale, and it expanded and revamped its once-moribund news operations. KMEX-34, the Los Angeles O&O station that provided two-fifths of the network's revenue at the time, made history by becoming the first Spanish-language TV station to outperform the city's English-language affliates. Such instances would become less anomalous as time went by — it overtook the major-film-studio-backed UPN and The WB nationally in the early 2000s, becoming the fifth-largest network overall, and in September 2010, it won the entire week on the strength of a popular telenovela's finale and a Prime Time Mexico/Ecuador soccer match. The fact that the English networks were still burning off their summer programming also helped.
In 2008, Univision created a Saturday morning block, Planeta U, which airs (Spanish-dubbed) programs like Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go!, Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks, and Beakman's World. In the past, the network has also aired Spanish dubbed versions of anime such as Future Boy Conan and Tenchi Universe.
Univision still gets much of its programming, including most of its telenovelas, from Televisa, though in the past several years, relations between the two networks have been strained due to what Televisa sees as unnecessary censorship of its shows by Univision. Much of this has to do with the fact that, in addition to Spanish obscenities, Univision also filters out words that have no negative connotations in Spanish but may be considered obscene in English and other languages, or by other Latin American nations (for instance, what might be a comparatively-mild expletive in Mexico not worthy for bleeping could easily be offensive to someone with heritage in Venezuela or Honduras).
- In 2000, Univision bid for the broadcast stations of USA Network, a chain of stations which formerly aired nothing but the Home Shopping Network but by then were airing a local form of Toronto's Citytv, though their 50-69 channel positions and surrounding programming provided a drain on USA itself. Disney was expected to win the stations when they were put up for sale, but Univision's bid was better. Though a few stations in markets where Univision didn't have an affiliate converted to the main network, the rest, along with other affiliates which came on, formed into a second Univision network known as Telefutura, which came into existence as a vault network for Univision's most enduring novelas, and for a way for Univision to snap up Spanish-dubbed Hollywood film rights usually grabbed by Telemundo during their Sony-owned Dork Age, along with airing more sports that might not rate well on the main network but do good enough for the diehards. It was rebranded as UniMas ("mas" means "more") in 2013, and pretty much matches Telemundo in the ratings.
- Galavision is another vault-and-sports cable-only network, along with carrying some of the other programming on Televisa networks that doesn't fit on Univision. Not to be confused with the Televisa over-the-air network of the same name which is Mexico-exclusive.
- Univision tlnovelas, a cable network in 2012 launched to air old telenovelas, along with some older shows which never aired north of the border.
- Univision Deportes/Televisa Deportes Network, another 2012-launched cable network which serves as Univision's attempt to compete with ESPN and Fox Deportes, and has already done very well thanks to their focus on the Mexican Premier League and other Latin American sports rights neglected by Fox and ESPN (which along with Al Jazeera's BeIn Sports, all focus more on Euro-Asian football than Latin America), or bungled by GolTV.
- Univision Noticias, an eventual 24-hour news channel which will compete with CNN en Espanol, though the focus has gone more to...
- Fusion, an English-language effort (formerly co-managed with ABC) which doesn't have the usual 'breaking news and pundit fight' format of the regular news networks, but serves to bring information in a compelling format to younger viewers regardless of race or language, along with original news programming. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos has his own show on the network. Rather than CNN or Fox News, Fusion probably competed more with the defunct Pivot, as their focus is more on commentary, documentary, and even comedic programming than reporting or debates.
- The Fusion Media Group was formed after ABC abandoned Fusion. After a lawsuit by Hulk Hogan that all but destroyed the company, Univision acquired most of the Gawker Media blogs (including sites such as Kotaku, Gizmodo, Deadspin, etc., but not its namesake) to increase its English-language footprint, aligning them within FMG as the Gizmodo Media Group. FMG also houses Univision's stake in The Onion and its entertainment site The A.V. Club, as well as online African-American magazine The Root. All of these websites were also switched to the same format and platform formerly used by Gawker. Fusion TV's editorial efforts were later spun out from the channel and into this division under the new title Splinter.
- El Rey Network, a joint venture between Robert Rodriguez, Univision, and Cox Communications (Collectively known as "El Netwarko Groupo") focusing on grindhouse-style content. It is best known for original series such as From Dusk Till Dawn and Lucha Underground. The network has been likened to a Hispanic-targeting Spike TV, back when it was fixated on action shows and movies.