Randy Falco spent his career in television and media, and he thinks he and his staff have cracked the code for selling news to the next generation.
The CEO of Univision already presides over the dominant network for Spanish-language television. It recently won the bragging rights of snagging the No. 1 rating of any network during the summer re-run season, beating out NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox for adult viewers under 50. Now Univision is partnering with ABC to launch Fusion, a cable network ostensibly aimed at English-speaking Hispanics but increasingly looking like a channel designed for young people in general.
Were trying to do a little bit of parody and offer a bit of sense of humor around the news in the way its presented. We believe thats really the way young people consume news these days, Falco, 59, said during a recent interview in Fusions new studio in Doral. I really think that every single cable news service that is successful has a point of view, has a voice. Were hoping that voice for us is going to be a slightly different slant on the news.
A former Simpsons writer who doesnt speak Spanish (Billy Kimball) is the chief programming officer in Fusions new Doral headquarters, a news complex it shares with Univision. Falcos staff hired the former top executive at the Daily Show, David Javerbaum, to preside over comedy programming from a Fusion office in Los Angeles.
Fusion shares its new space with Univisions news division, allowing for collaboration between the English and Spanish arms. Jorge Ramos, who shares anchor duties at Univision with María Elena Salinas, hosts an hourlong primetime show in English for Fusion, and Univisions popular anchor from its Los Angeles affiliate, León Krauze, also will host a program on pop-culture on the network scheduled to launch Oct. 28.
Univision and ABC see demographics of their side, as a new generation of Hispanics turn away from Spanish-language programming. And while theyre leaning on an irreverent approach to the days news to build audience, the news business can be a challenge. Al Jazeeras ballyhooed launch of a network in the United States in late August only drew an initial audience of fewer than 60,000 people.
The former CEO of AOL, Falco spent most of his career at the top of NBC. He joined Univision in January 2011. And while he runs a network self-branded as the Hispanic Heartbeat of America, Falco doesnt speak Spanish. So Fusion will be the first time he can actually watch and understand the content driving the networks profits, which hit $40 million in the most recent quarterly report.
Falco says the language barrier has not been an issue. In 2011, he told Ad Week: You know, its funny, but it doesnt all come down to language. Its not a dodge: I think language is important, but the culture is so much more important, and you need to understand the differences not only between the general-market culture and our audience but also within the Hispanic community as a whole.
(Falco holds the title of CEO and runs the New York-based company, Univision Communications Inc., which includes radio, television, and other business ventures, including toys, licensing and Univision-branded debit cards. The companys best-known face locally is the Spanish-speaking Cesar Conde, who is president of Univision Networks and presides over Univisions national broadcasting network. Fusion also falls under Condes portfolio.)