The Spanish-language programming powerhouse Univision is getting into the English-language market. It was a blockbuster summer for the network — its primetime networks dominated the July sweeps ahead of four other major networks.
But its new project is a bit riskier. Fusion, a new English-language network is a collaborative effort with ABC News, and launches tonight in 20 million homes across the country.
The targeted demographic includes millennial Hispanics and the line-up is something of a grab bag: a morning show, nightly news programs, animated puppet news and various sports and entertainment shows.
Isaac Lee, president of news for Univision and CEO of Fusion, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
On his memo to his staff saying ‘Not everyone will get it and that is the point’
“It is targeted at the very specific psychographic—we want to reach young millennials that consume media in a completely different way. We are going to do current events, news, pop culture and satire, but we are going to do it in a way that they can see the transparency, the honesty, the authenticity and everything that we are going to do is going to have the adequate dose of humor. And that is a big change—not everyone will get it—and I understand that. Sometimes I don’t get it, but we are not doing this for me.”
On whether Fusion is trying to reach all millennials or just Hispanic millennials who speak English
“We are trying to reach millennials. But what we are not going to do is ignore that 20 percent of millennials are of Hispanic descent, that they have a huge influence in culture, in society, in politics, in the economy, and the best way for us to reach Hispanic millennials as a core audience is to give them great content. They do not want to get content that is specifically targeted at them; they just do not want to be disregarded or appear to be invisible.”
On the millennial audience
“What we have to know is that when we are talking to this generation, we are talking to progressive people that understand that the country is changing, that the way that California looks today is the way that the United States is going to look today, and they want to be part of that society and enjoy it.”
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Tonight there will be a new TV channel available in 20 million homes. It's called Fusion, and it's a joint venture between the Spanish-language powerhouse Univision and ABC News. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos will be a key figure on Fusion, and tonight he will interview President Obama, as well as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, about, among other things, immigration reform.
SEN, TED CRUZ: A path to citizenship for those who came here illegally, in my view I think that is unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, sometimes decades in line to come here.
HOBSON: Ted Cruz, speaking with Jorge Ramos. Now as you can hear, one big difference between Univision and Fusion is that Fusion will broadcast in English. It'll be aimed at the millennial generation, people born between the early '80s and the early 2000s. Joining us from Univision headquarters in Dural, Florida, to talk about Fusion is its CEO Isaac Le, who's also the president of Univision News. Isaac, thanks so much for joining us.
ISAAC LEE: Thank you, Jeremy, for having me. Today is a very important day for us at Fusion and at Univision.
HOBSON: Well, you wrote a memo to your staff about this, saying not everyone will get it, referring to Fusion, and that is the point. What did you mean by that?
LEE: That's a very good question. I think that it's important to know that Fusion will have content that will be only available at Fusion. It's not what you're going to find in any other network. And also it is targeted at the very specific psychographic. We want to reach young millennials that consume media in a completely different way.
We are going to do current events, news, pop culture, satire, but we're going to do it in a way that they can see the transparency, the honesty, the authenticity, and everything that we're going to do. It's going to have the adequate dose of humor, and that is a big change. Not everyone will get it, and I understand that. Sometimes I don't get it. But we are not doing this for me.
HOBSON: But you say you're trying to reach millennials. Are you trying to reach Hispanic millennials who speak English or just all millennials?
LEE: Jeremy, we are trying to reach millennials, but what we're not going to do is ignore that 20 percent of millennials are of Hispanic descent, that they have a huge influence in culture, in society, in politics, in the economy. And the best way for us to reach Hispanic millennials as a core audience is to give them great content.
They do not want to get content that is specifically targeted at them. They just don't want to be disregarded or appear to be invisible. So what we have seen in the research that we have done over the past two years is that the opportunity is huge, that we will be reaching not only Hispanic millennials but millennials, but for sure we will have a Latino edge, and for sure we are a product of the Disney company, of ABC News and of Univision News. And you cannot be a child of Univision without having Latino blood.
HOBSON: Well, you have said when we spoke before that Univision has a point of view, and that is that it is pro-Hispanic. Will Fusion also be pro-Hispanic in its viewpoint?
LEE: That's a great question, Jeremy. Fusion is going to be pro-millennial, and part of being pro-millennial is being pro-Hispanic, you know, supporting free university education program. It's something that 80 percent of millennials support. They want national health insurance. It's 80 percent support. They support a path for immigrants to become legal citizens, undocumented to documented. It's more than 70 percent.
They oppose war. They are in favor of gay marriage. Most of them, close to 55 or 60 percent, support the legalization of marijuana. They support stronger gun control laws. They even support, 50 percent of them, an open border with Mexico. So what we have to know is that when we're talking to this generation, we are talking to progressive people that understand that the country is changing, that the way California looks today is the way that the United States is going to look today, and they want to be part of that society and enjoy it.
HOBSON: Who are you competing against? Is anybody else trying to do this? It doesn't seem like if you turn on NBC or CBS or some of the other networks that they are going after the demographic in this way.
LEE: I don't see anybody doing what we're doing. I see that there's a huge possibility, if you take millennials and Hispanics, they are the two most powerful demographic waves since the baby boom, and we want to be part of this. We want to surf that wave. And there is very good effort in programs like Jon Stewart, like "The Colbert Report," in amazing series like "Breaking Bad," Univision as a network is the number one network in English-dominant Hispanics 18 to 34, which is an amazing statistic.
But if you ask me if someone is working on how to deliver news, pop culture, humor, information in a tech-savvy, digital way to young people, I think that we are going to be a first.
HOBSON: We are speaking with Isaac Lee, the CEO of Fusio, that's a joint venture between Univision and ABC News. The network will premiere tonight in 20 million homes around the country. They will have an interview with President Obama, an interview with Republican Senator Ted Cruz. And if you catch the launch, let us know what you think. You can go to hereandnow.org or Facebook.com/hereandnowradio.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
Some other stories we're following, it's day one of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal trial in London. Among others, two former editors of the now-defunct tabloid have been charged with a raft of offenses, including some that carry a prison sentence. Also with more ways for young kids to interact with screens and apps marketed to them as educational, does the American Association of Pediatrics' recommendation against screen-time for little kids still hold for parents? These and other stories later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. This is HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Let's get back to our conversation with Isaac Lee, the CEO of Fusion, that is the new English-language TV network that Univision and ABC News are launching tonight. It'll be on in about 20 million homes around the country. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos has a bunch of big interviews tonight: President Obama, Senator Ted Cruz and the controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Here's a clip. They're talking about immigration.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICA WITH GEORGE RAMOS")
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: Homeland Security, ICE swore in 100 of my deputies to enforce the immigration laws. I had a...
JORGE RAMOS: You can't do that. But you can't do that anymore.
ARPAIO: No, no, they took that away from me, Homeland...
RAMOS: Why did they do that?
ARPAIO: Well, I think we were doing too good of a job.
RAMOS: No, no, no.
ARPAIO: Oh, yeah.
RAMOS: You were accused of racial profiling.
ARPAIO: Oh no, no, no.
HOBSON: That was Jorge Ramos, speaking with Joe Arpaio. The network is also going to have comedy programming, and Isaac Lee, you actually hired David Javerbaum from "The Daily Show," right?
LEE: Indeed, Jeremy. We are looking for the best people and the best talent in the country. David Javerbaum is a genius. He has won 15 Emmys, has done an amazing job at "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, and we are producing with him a very, very different type of show. It's going to air tonight. You shouldn't miss it. You will see for the first time animated anchors, cartoon characters that are operated by puppeteers, by the Jim Henson company, that will be in a live set interviewing people.
It's a first, and even for David this is an innovative, a new project. If you go to the website, which is Fusion.net, you can start to see some of the teasers that we have for the content.
HOBSON: You know, you're talking about all of these things that millennials are interested in. It's worth noting that millennials are less interested in television in general because they're getting their media content on their tablets or their phones or their computers, not so much TV. Do you have to stretch into that area, really, with the main force of your content?
LEE: I think that that's true, but only in part. Millennials watch 26 hours of television a week. They do watch television, but they want to get to watch television and watch their programs and find something that it's more than breaking news, find something that it's more than just information. We cannot pretend for them to be unplugged for the whole day and wait for the 6:30 evening news to find out what's going on in the world. They will find out immediately by Twitter, sometimes even sooner than news organizations.
They don't need to verify. They don't need to have the rigorous process to do the fact-checking we do. And they will tweet with their friends. They will go to the Facebook page. They will see what their friends opine. They will interact. They will link to a clip at YouTube. They will see video. So when you go to watch television, you cannot pretend to surprise them with that. You need to bring in context. You need to bring in humor. You need to be doing something that NPR has been incredibly successful at.
It is explanatory journalism, going further than just telling you what's going on. And if you bring that context into the picture, and if you have smart people sharing in a transparent way, they will like it, and they will watch. Just look at the numbers of "Sons of Anarchy" in cable, of what HBO has been able to achieve with a show like "Girls."
Millennials are watching, but they are watching good content.
HOBSON: Now Isaac Lee, you are not a millennial yourself. Is there something that you will be taking from your time in journalism that you feel that the older generation should provide to millennials that is still a tried and true way of doing things on a television network?
LEE: Yes, sir. Actually two important things to mention: nostalgia is big. Look what Buzzfeed does. We follow them closely as an example because they have been able to reinvent again the way news is delivered online, and nostalgia is big. And we have very important parents that have been part of the American society for a long time. We have the archival footage of the American Broadcasting Company and of Univision, and we will use it, enjoy it and make it part of our content.
And also something that we found doing all this research, is that grandparents, people that are already beyond good and evil, understand and connect with millennials in an amazing way. So we are producing a wisdom project where we found people that have had an important role in American society telling millennials what their advice is and sharing with them in a candid way, with no sugar coating, things about life.
HOBSON: Based on what you have said, I have to ask you a question that has nothing to do with television, which is: Do you think that in 20 years that Hispanics in America will all be speaking English as their first language?
LEE: No, I don't think so. I think that if you see today, there are 35 million Hispanic households, speaking Spanish, and in 1980 they were 10 million. So it's an increase of 25 million. That's why Univision, it's growing. That's why Univision ratings are increasing in double digits. That's why they were the number one network in the sweeps of July.
And at the same time within that growth, we have a huge opportunity with the second and third generation of those households to do good journalism. And what I can tell you is that when I was born, 87 percent of this country was white Anglos, and in 20 years, Jeremy, it's going to be very close to 50 percent. That's a huge demographic change that we cannot miss. And when you have 50 percent of the country that it's young, that it's diverse, that it's multicultural, you have to adapt. You have to change, or you will be part of the past and not the future.
HOBSON: Isaac Lee is president of Univision News and CEO of Fusion, which is launching today. Isaac Lee, thank you so much for joining us.
LEE: Jeremy, thank you very much, pleasure to be at NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Jeremy Hobson joins Robin Young as co-host of Here & Now in its new 2-hour format, from WBUR and NPR.
Thousands of documents, pictures, books and ancient Jewish paraphernalia were lent to the U.S. by the Iraqi government. Now, Jews who fled Iraq are fighting to keep them from returning to Iraq.Comment | more »
Holiday entertaining can be stressful. Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst brings suggestions as well as five recipes, including poached pears, chicken stew and shrimp chowder.1 Comment | more »
Opposition leader Olga Bielkova says the attempt by the police to disperse protesters overnight in Ukraine was yet another instance of the country’s president breaking a promise.2 Comments | more »