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​No joke: Spanish network Univision buys stake in The Onion

Odd pairings are the realm of comedy, but two seemingly mismatched partners are hoping their new venture will bring more than laughs.

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications has bought a stake in the satirical English-language news site The Onion, the companies told CBS MoneyWatch. While the details of the transaction weren't disclosed, Univision described the stake as a minority investment. The Onion CEO Mike McAvoy said in a memo to staff that Univision might buy the rest of the company "down the line."

Univision may be best known to English-language viewers for its anchor Jorge Ramos, who butted heads with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump last year over Trump's immigration policies. In a heated exchange at a press conference, Trump told Ramos to "go back to Univision."

While that alone might have seen like something written by The Onion, Univision has serious plans for its stake in the satirical news site. The broadcaster wants to reach millennial viewers and readers, and it says that humor is the best way to capture that group of consumers.

"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," Isaac Lee, chief news and digital officer of Univision and CEO of Fusion, said in a statement. "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."

As Lee's statement suggests, Univision has ambitions far beyond providing Spanish-language content to its viewers. Last year, the company invested in The Root, an English-language online site that's geared to black readers, and in 2013 it created the English-language digital network Fusion with Walt Disney (DIS).

The Onion will remain independent, but Univision said it will work with the digital content company to find new content opportunities, including short- and long-form formats for The Onion's brands, which include The A.V. Club and ClickHole.

In McAvoy's memo to The Onion staff, which was obtained by CBS MoneyWatch, he acknowledged that the deal was with "what might at first seem like an unusual partner."

He noted, "Though you may associate the name with Spanish-language television, Univision has expanded its scope further in recent years" with Fusion and shows such as the late-night humor show "No, You Shut Up!" (The A.V. Club's review of the show said it was "pretty great.") "Considering this editorial-first mindset, Univision seemed like an ideal partner," he added.

"So what does this mean for us as a company? Good things. 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," he wrote.

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