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Fusion Wants Young Latinos To Turn On Their TVs

Oct 26, 2013
Originally published on October 28, 2013 9:47 am

The generation now coming of age in the U.S — sometimes called the millennials — is the largest ever. They pose a problem for television broadcasters: Many millennials watch little or no live TV.

On Monday, ABC and Univision are joining forces to launch a cable channel that hopes to change that. Fusion plans to attract a young audience by blending news with entertainment and humor. And it's aiming for a specific group of millennials — young Latinos.

For Univision, Fusion is something new: a channel broadcasting entirely in English. The Spanish-language network has prospered by programming for the fast-growing Hispanic population, but to maintain its connection with Hispanics, Univision is looking to the next generation — young Latinos who like their media in English.

Fusion shares its headquarters in a Miami suburb with Univision's news operation, in a warehouse transformed into a sprawling, high-tech newsroom. Most employees look like they're in their 20s and 30s — but not everyone. Fusion's programming chief, Billy Kimball, is a veteran writer and producer, with credits on The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and CBS's Late Late Show, among others.

Like executives with other new cable channels, such as Pivot and Revolt, Kimball is trying to reach millennials, a prized but elusive target. With its Univision roots, Kimball acknowledges Fusion may have an advantage: About one-fifth of millennials are Hispanic.

"The demographic information is interesting," Kimball says, "but it doesn't tell you much about how to write your script. It doesn't tell you much about how to choose among different kinds of talent."

The key of Fusion's broadcast day will be a nightly newscast hosted by Univision's Jorge Ramos. After hosting the Fusion newscast in English, Ramos will walk next door to another studio for his Spanish-language broadcast.

Alicia Menendez, host of a nightly talk show, says Fusion will be a news channel, but with a twist.

"I think it depends on how you define news," says Menendez, herself a millennial at 30. "Across the network, we are using humor as a common currency for this generation, as a common language. So it's going to be very light, and it's going to be very fun, even when we're tackling serious topics."

Take, for instance, Fusion's morning show. It's a daily program that will have features, interviews and humor.

"Do you believe in small government?" a producer asks on an upcoming show segment. "I mean like if the government were composed only of small people — midgets, dwarfs, things like that. Don't you think that would be kind of awesome?"

Mariana Atencio, one of the hosts, is in her late 20s and Venezuelan. She'll share the table each morning with Brazilian journalist Pedro Andrade and Yannis Pappas, a Greek-American stand-up comedian.

"NPR meets the Daily Show," explains Atencio. "Those are the two things that we tell ourselves every single morning."

The time slot has some tough competition, but Atencio says her show won't look like others on morning TV. Like her and many in her audience, Atencio says the show will have a Latin touch.

"It's like me: I can say a word in Spanish if I forgot the word in English," she says. "Every time I don't pronounce something perfectly, Yannis, the comedian, he sings the West Side Story, the Rita Moreno song, 'I Want to Live in America,' because I don't have a green card yet. So it's those kind of fun things that point to the fact that we may not be 100-percent white Americans. But we still identify with the mainstream."

It's a big challenge to get millennials, an audience that shows little interest in live television, to turn on their TVs each morning. One strategy is to deliver the program in short segments that can be easily shared and downloaded. But the key, Atencio says, is making sure her show gives millennials not just the headlines, but what she calls "added value."

"Because young people already know the headlines," she says. "They see it on their phone when they wake up, on their iPad. So it's giving them that little something extra. It can be a comedy sketch. It can be an explainer."

When it launches Monday, Fusion will get a boost from its two parent companies, ABC and Univision. The morning shows of the two networks are joining to simulcast segments promoting Fusion and its new morning show.

Fusion is starting with 20 million potential households, but hopes to expand quickly. Kimball says the new network is gambling it can lure young viewers back to live TV.

"What we need to do is create something that's different," he says. "And yes, sure, that has some risk associated with it. But with 380 other cable channels out there, playing it safe has the most risk of all."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The generation now coming of age in the United States, sometimes called millennials, those a challenge for television programmers. They often watch little or no live TV. ABC and Univision are determined to try to change that on Monday. The two networks are joining forces to launch a cable channel aimed at millennials. The new channels is called Fusion and it hopes to attract a young audience by blending news with entertainment and humor.

It is specifically targeting a group of millennials, young Latinos from Miami. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: For Univision, Fusion is something new, a channel broadcasting entirely in English. The reason is obvious. The Spanish language network has prospered by programming for the fast-growing Hispanic population. But to maintain its connection with Hispanics, Univision is looking to the next generation - Young Latinos who like their media in English.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hey, pop culture, satire, news, this is Fusion.

ALLEN: Fusion shares its headquarters in a Miami suburb with Univision's news operation. It's a warehouse transformed into a sprawling, high tech newsroom. Almost everyone looks to be in their 20s and 30s. Well, not everyone. Fusion's programming chief is Billy Kimball, the veteran writer and producer with credits on "The Simpsons," "Saturday Night Live," and CBS's "Late Late Show," among others.

Like executives with other new cable channels, such as Pivot and Revolt, Kimball is trying to hit a prized but elusive target - millennials. With its Univision roots, Kimball acknowledges Fusion may have an advantage. About one-fifth of millennials are Hispanic.

BILLY KIMBALL: The demographic information is interesting. You've heard me mention it a lot, but it doesn't tell you much about how to write your script. It doesn't tell you much about how to choose among different kinds of talent.

ALLEN: The key of Fusion's broadcast day will be a nightly newscast hosted by Univision's Jorge Ramos. After hosting the Fusion newscast in English, Ramos will walk next door to another studio for his Spanish-language broadcast. Thirty-year old Alicia Menendez, host of a nightly talk show, says Fusion will be a news channel, but...

ALICIA MENENDEZ: I think it depends on how you define news. I mean, across the network we are using humor as a common currency for this generation as a common language, and so it's going to be very light and it's going to be very fun even when we're tackling serious topics.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Do you believe in small government?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Depends on how small you're talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I mean, like, if the government were composed only of small people, you know, midgets, dwarves, things like that. Don't you think that would be kind of awesome?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It would be pretty cool.

ALLEN: That's a sample of what's planned for Fusion's "Morning Show." It's a daily program that will have produced features, interviews, and humor.

MARIANA ATENCIO: NPR meets "The Daily Show." Those are the two things that we tell ourselves every single morning.

ALLEN: That's Mariana Atencio, one of the hosts. She's in her late 20s and Venezuelan. She'll share the table each morning with Brazilian journalist, Pedro Andrade and Yannis Pappas, a Greek-American stand-up comedian. It's a time slot in which there's tough competition, but Atencio says her show won't look like others on morning TV. They'll cover different stories, and like her and many in her audience, Atencio says, the show will have a Latin touch.

ATENCIO: I can say a word in Spanish if I forgot the word in English. Every time I don't pronunciate(ph) something perfectly, Yannis, the comedian, he sings the "West Side Story," the Rita Moreno song, "I Want to Live in America," because I don't have a green card yet. So it's those kind of fun things that point to the fact that we may not be 100 percent white Americans, but we still identify with the mainstream, and I guess that's part of it.

ALLEN: It's a big challenge to get millennials, an audience that shows little interest in live television, to turn on their TVs each morning. One strategy is to deliver the program in short segments that can be easily shared and downloaded. But the key, Atencio says, is making sure her show gives millennials not just the headlines but what she calls added value.

ATENCIO: Because young people already know the headlines. They see it on their phone when they wake up, on their iPad. So it's giving them that little something extra. It can be a comedy sketch, it can be an explainer.

ALLEN: Fusion is starting with 20 million potential households, but hopes to expand carriage quickly. Programming chief Billy Kimball says the new network is gambling it can lure young viewers back to live TV.

KIMBALL: What we need to do is create something that's different. And, yes, sure, that has some risk associated with it, but with 380 other cable channels out there playing it safe has the most risk of all.

ALLEN: When it launches Monday, Fusion will get a boost from its two parent companies: ABC and Univision. The morning shows of the two networks are joining the simulcast segments promoting Fusion and its new "Morning Show." Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.