The new English-language cable network from ABC and Univision debuted Monday evening. With the original target audience of millennial Hispanics expanded to “engage and champion a young, diverse and inclusive America,” it hopes it will be a hit with a mix of “smart and irreverent original reporting, lifestyle content and comedy programming.” Among its first-night coverage was an exclusive interview of President Obama by ABC News’ Jim Avila.
With a song-and-dance and a presidential interview, the ABC-Univision cable network Fusion debuted last night at 7 p.m. ET in hopes of attracting a young and diverse audience.
“We want to be very self-aware of not repeating some of the tired clichés of cable news — wallpaper video, banner headlines that promise more than they deliver and content that is often irrelevant to our audiences’ life,” says VP of News Mark Lima, an ABC News veteran who most recently worked as a Nightline senior producer. “We will give them a fresh perspective of what’s happening in the world.”
Originally conceived for a young, English-speaking Hispanic audience, Fusion has since broadened its scope. The network now says it “will engage and champion a young, diverse and inclusive America with a unique mix of smart and irreverent original reporting, lifestyle content and comedy programming.”
We got a taste of what that means with Monday’s premiere programming, which started with America With Jorge Ramos, a one-hour news magazine featuring the Univision anchor, Fusion’s biggest name, who described his show “as news with an accent, and that accent will include my own.”
That show, which features a sleek set and dressed-down Ramos, covered serious news right off the bat: an interview with President Obama conducted by ABC News’ Jim Avila exclusively for Fusion; a piece on controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who, Ramos says, “in the Hispanic community is really hated;” and a “very frank discussion” with three adults who were sexually assaulted by priests as children.
Day One also showed Fusion’s other side. The countdown to the network’s launch featured a pre-produced musical number in which performers pretending to be Fusion execs dance and sing about things like clearances, demos and being the “corporate godchild of ABC/Disney and Univision.”
Sports Talkers, a 9 p.m. sports comedy show, included shtick like an interview with a St. Louis Cardinals blogger who turned out to be an expert in the birds, not the baseball team.
Lima says the channel’s news efforts, which also include shows Alicia Menendez Tonight, Open Source with Leon Krauze and The Morning Show, are built to speak to an audience that is “highly-engaged, digitally fluent and looking for content that is inclusive, authentic and entertaining.”
“We understand that this generation often gets their breaking news from Twitter, they get and share their opinions with friends on Facebook,” he says. “What we plan to do is give context and analysis on how certain events and issues impact their lives.”
To do that, Fusion has hired more than 200 news staffers, coming from places as diverse as Miami, where Fusion is based, to Singapore. That includes a team of investigative reporters, featuring most notably National Geographic’s Mariana van Zeller, Lima says.
“Their reporting will add a distinctive voice to our news content,” he says.
Fusion programming will emanate mostly from Miami, where the channel shares five studios and control rooms with Univision, and Los Angeles. It has news staff in Washington, New York and Mexico City.
Fusion also has access to ABC and Univision resources, and will tap them regularly, Lima says.
“When there is breaking news happening throughout the United States, we will look for ways to harness the expertise of local reporters on the ground who know the communities best,” Lima says.
Only time will tell whether the young viewers Fusion is targeting will get on board. In the meantime, though, the channel is piquing the interest of media watchers.
Here’s a look at some of the other coverage Fusion has generated so far: