Last year, Univision and ABC set out to create the first English-language cable network custom-made for young Hispanics. Somewhere along the way, they changed their minds.
When Fusion debuts Monday evening from its new studios in Doral, the channel run by the leader in Latin media will be targeting a much broader audience: adults under 35 of all ethnic backgrounds.
“They initially started as the network for millennial Hispanics,” said Yannis Pappas, the Brooklyn comedian from a Greek family who will be one of Fusion’s morning show hosts. “Now it’s all millennials. And we’re winking at Hispanics.”
Fusion’s shift offers a look at the challenges in pursuing Hispanic consumers, perhaps the hottest target in marketing today. The network scrapped the initial Latin identity after focus groups showed young Hispanics were put off by the idea of a television channel centered on their ethnicity, said Isaac Lee, head of news at Univision and CEO of Fusion.
“We found out that Hispanic millennials do not want to be ghettoized. They don’t want content that only speaks to them,” said Lee, 42, who ran Poder magazine before joining Univision in 2010. “The only way to reach them is to provide fantastic content, and to include them.”
That realization helps explain Fusion’s grab-bag of programming, which will go out live at 6:57 p.m. with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos’ first English-language news show.
But if Ramos represents an obvious choice for Univision’s original concept, the rest of the line-up captures Fusion’s unconventional approach to news and talk: an animated satire show, comedians taking on sports, a puppet talk show, and an evening program on sex and politics. Fusion hired the former head writer from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to produce a comedy block from Fusion’s Los Angeles operation.
Fusion’s broader demographic makes for complicated marketing, since Lee and others say young Hispanics remain their primary target. “Imagine if you are doing archery,” Lee said. “The bull’s-eye, the red dot, is still an Hispanic. But the whole target is not just the red dot.”
Even if the original Latin approach by Univision didn’t prove viable, the broader focus offers an intriguing prospect for the Miami area. While an English-language channel for Hispanics would further the city’s reputation as the center of Latin media, a network pursing millennials puts Miami on the forefront of a closely watched front in the broadcasting wars.
Pivot TV launched in August to pursue millennials, with Sen. John McCain’s twenty-something daughter, Meghan, hosting a talk show, and indie favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt contributing his interactive film project, HitRECord. Sean Combs debuted his all-music network, Revolt, earlier this month in the hope of being the new MTV for the millennial generation.
Fusion’s rollout is moving relatively slowly, with executives saying it will be available in about 20 million homes Monday night.
That’s about half the size of Pivot at its debut and far less than the 45 million homes available to Al Jazeera when it launched its U.S. network in August. Fusion’s initial reach will be small enough that it will not receive Nielsen ratings, the network said. Cable giants Comcast (which owns Univision rival Telemundo) and Time Warner haven’t signed on to carry Fusion, meaning large areas of South Florida won’t be able to see the network when it launches.