Animated anchors, hard-hitting documentaries, political satire, and this network is only in its first week! The brainchild of CEO Isaac Lee, Fusion, launched last week as a partnership betweenUnivision and ABC News Network, spawned the first English-language network aimed at tapping the Latino demographic and establishing itself among the staple networks. The companies put faith in Lee’s vision because of his passion for the project, the data-driven scope, and the potential earnings it could yield in the future.
The network’s description on the Fusion website explains the site will fuse “news, pop culture, and satire TV and digital network aimed at the millennial generation.” This is standard enough, but the unstated characteristics of Fusion are causing the most stir. The network will cater to English-dominant Hispanics living in America. The Latino and millennial audience, consisting of 18 to 34-year-olds, have been grouped together in an effort to hit two birds with “una piedra.”
Hispanics are the largest minority group in the country, totaling about 17 percent of the U.S. population, and this number is set to swell in coming years. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 25 percent of the population will be Latinos by 2035.
Of that Latino population, more than 65 percent are millennials. If Fusion, with the resources and muscle of Disney Co. and Univision can tap into this largely underserved market, the opportunities for advertising and influence are staggering.
In an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Lee points out that the strength of Fusion’s reach is steeped in more than two years of research on Latino and millennial television viewing habits. The results found that targeting Hispanics alone might be cutting the scope too narrow and cause opportunities to be missed. Further, since the majority of the Latino community also falls into the millennial category, expanding the scope of content to millenials as a whole made the most sense.
“By creating good content for millennials, you don’t just reach Hispanics. You reach them all.”
Fusion has been active on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for almost two years, gaining traction with an online community through short documentaries, articles and related content. Now, the challenge faced by executives is taking that online following and striking distribution deals that give them an opportunity to view content on television.
While Fusion has inked distribution deals with Verizon, Charter and AT&T U-Verse, and estimates to reach 20 million homes upon its launch, it is still in negotiations with the larger distribution companies like Dish Network, Direct TV and Comcast. These holdouts could challenge the projected audience growth of 40 million by 2014 and 60 million the following year. How will Fusion find this audience? Lee believes in content and building a team of talent whose ambition matches his own.
Fusion is betting that its combination of creative, alternative content along with well-known hosts and anchors as talent will draw in viewers. In particular, Univision’s Jorge Ramos, a pillar in the Spanish-language media community, provides established credibility that the network will need to gain a grassroots following in the early months of launch.
Ramos, arguably the most respected active news anchor on television has called this the beginning of a long-awaited change in network television and in the makeup of the country. As the nation changes, Ramos needs to reinvent himself to stay relevant and reach this market, he told The New York Times. He believes that Fusion offers the best potential for a Latino voice in the national conversation between the large networks; however, for this voice to be heard, he believes, above all, it has to be authentic.
“So far, creating a product in English for Hispanics has not worked well, not as a magazine and not on TV,” reported The Times. “So if Fusion is going to work, and I hope it does, it has to have a different voice and take sides, have an opinion.”
Furthermore, Lee asserts that many exciting events on the horizon the Latino community will engage in (The World Cup, 2014 Elections, and 2016 Election) will bolster the content they offer, as well as attract the audience they seek to reach.
The ongoing inevitable changes in the demographics of the United States point to Latinos having increased numbers and increased influence in the conversation that shapes the country. Fusion is taking the first leap into the great unknown to give a face to that ever-loudening voice, and a place for it to call home.
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