A Jim Henson puppet that looks like an alien, talking about immigration reform. Maybe a turtle, explaining the nuance of why legislation takes so long to make its way through Congress. This is, in a rough sense, the vision for No You Shut Up,” on Fusion, a news and entertainment cable network and joint venture from ABC News and Univision, launching Oct. 28.
Its newly promoted CEO, Isaac Lee said the channel will not only be aimed at young Hispanics, but — contrary to some of the early reporting — a multi-ethnic audience aged 18-34, one intensely sought after by advertisers.
“If we produce content to appeal only to Latinos, they’re not going to like it,” said Lee, during a phone interview from Miami, where the national network will be based. “We’ve done two years of research to make sure it’s something mainstream.”
The demographic argument for content aimed at a younger audience with an eye toward Hispanic viewers is clear. One in five Millennials are Hispanic and 65 percent of Hispanics are millennials. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates one in three Americans will be Hispanic by 2050.
It’s also working off data showing that its core audience watches popular English-language shows, like The Walking Dead, Dancing With The Stars and Game of Thrones.
The larger challenge for a new network is a radically shifting landscape, one that features video on demand, internet streaming, Netflix, HBOGo, and an ever-increasing crowd of entertainment options. A recent study commissioned by theNew York Times found that 34% of Millennials (18-34) watch no broadcast television: They’re online, on social media, listening to music, playing games or just out of the house away from the TV.
Lee said Fusion knows it is vital to have a strong online offering because the audience “voraciously consumes” content online, on mobile and through social media. The channel’s app, he said, will launch in 2014.
“We are doing that now through our mobile-responsive web site and through engaging the audience on social media,” he said.
But Lee also argued that even the diminished youth audience is a huge one.
“Millennials are watching 26 hours of linear television a week, that is a very healthy amount,” he said, citing Nielsen data.
A big part of Lee’s vision is for humor and serious journalism to coexist on the network to reach a younger audience.
And while Fusion is planning to use humor and satire to draw in millennial viewers, any new entrant from ABC News and Univision was always going to have a focus on news.
That part of the initiative is anchored by veteran news anchor Jorge Ramos, who Univision has previously tasked with interviewing big politicians like President Obama and Mitt Romney during events like Univision’s 2012 election candidates forum, where Ramos hit Obama for breaking a promise to focus on immigration reform in his first term and Romney for the idea that immigrants should self-deport.
Ramos also has the distinction of being someone the Latino community respects and views as a leader. A Pew Research study found that he was at the top of the list when it comes to Latino leaders, along with the likes of Sonia Sotomayor.
So why would someone entrenched in his position, roll the dice with a new network like Fusion?
“I would argue the opposite,” Ramos told BuzzFeed. “I have to do it to reinvent myself and be relevant.” He said while Univision is doing well, it’s not enough to be a small part of the conversation in America. “Everyday we have great interviews and incredibly appealing stories in Spanish but only 55 million Latinos will know, the other 250 million will have no idea.”
Ramos relayed the story of speaking to the Los Angeles superintendent two weeks ago.
“He told me in the LA school district 72 percent of children are Hispanics. LA in just a few years will become the future,” he said.
Ramos is also very familiar with the offerings on television aimed at Latinos, which includes Univision as well as Telemundo, Mun2, MTV Tres and others. But a study of Nielsen data done by Simulmedia, found that U.S. Hispanics spent the majority of their TV viewing time watching English-language programming and 37% cannot be reached at all on major Spanish-language television networks.
And Adgate, the media analyst, said Fusion’s decision to play with news formats also makes sense.