Fusion expects to triple its reach within three years, and it has the promotional muscle of ABC to help.
Last week, Fusion host Alicia Menendez co-hosted ABC’s The View, and on Monday both Good Morning America and Univision’s Despierta America (filmed in Univision’s original Doral studios) will simulcast each other’s programming to promote the Fusion launch. Ramos joined George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday to promote Fusion’s launch.
ABC is also airing promos of Fusion’s mascot (a giant fuzzy F) being mock-interviewed by GMA anchors, including Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott. Jim Avila, an ABC reporter who was also named Fusion’s White House correspondent, will interview President Barack Obama on Monday for a segment airing on Ramos’ show, Fusion announced Sunday.
In the division of labor, ABC has responsibility for selling Fusion to cable providers and to advertisers. ABC’s parent company, Disney, has a portfolio of channels that could fold in Fusion as those contracts come up for renewal.
Lee said Disney views Fusion as following the same path as ESPN in the 1980s: a new network bound to have a slow start, but one with significant profit potential once it finds an audience and a stride.
In creating its lineup, Fusion made its most high-profile hires in the comedy field, including former Daily Show chief David Javerbaum and Billy Kimball, who once wrote for The Simpsons. The Jim Henson Company is partnering with an animation shop behind Comedy Central’s popular Robot Chicken shorts for a half hour of “topical satire” using stop-gap cartoons.. The Harvard Sailing Team comedy troupe will host a 30-minute program called Sports Talkers, while the show No, You Shut Up features a home host discussing the news with a panel of puppets.
Executives point to Stewart’s following as proof of millennials’ affinity for comedic news. And while Fusion also has a documentary team and Pappas will be joined in the morning by Brazilian journalist Pedro Andrade and Univision correspondent Mariana Atencio, Kimball said the network wants humor infused in as much of the news programming as possible.
“That’s how you add value to news,” said Kimball, the chief programming executive for Fusion in Doral. “You’re giving people not just the information, but you’re giving some perspective, too.”
Still, Comedy Central devotes just one hour of original programming a night to current events. And humor can be a challenge in television news. Fox News gave up on its version of The Daily Show ( The½ Hour News Hour) after six months, and comedian D.L. Hughley lasted about that long on CNN after what one media critic called “a show featuring painfully awkward interviews.”
“It will be interesting to see if ABC and Univision get it right,” said Morley Winograd, co-author of the book Millennial Makeover. “That ability to use humor to break through pretense is why it might actually work for them.”
The stakes are high in the Miami area, long the U.S. capital of Spanish-language media.
Univision secured about $11 million in tax credits and cash from Florida and Miami-Dade County for its Fusion headquarters, which shares space with the Spanish-language network’s news division. To secure the incentives, Univision and Fusion committed to investing an additional $247 million in the venture.