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Entertainment

Univision-ABC channel Fusion launching in a bid for young Latinos

TelevisionUnivision (tv network)Media IndustryABCSatellite and Cable Service

Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos knows firsthand the challenges facing media companies as they struggle to respond to younger viewers' dramatically different media consumption habits.

Ramos’ U.S.-born teenage son Nicolas doesn’t regularly watch traditional TV news, including the evening newscast that Ramos co-anchors on Univision. Nicolas primarily speaks English.

“We want to bet on the future, and this [generation] is the future,” Ramos said.

On Monday, Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications is launching its solution: Fusion, an English language cable channel designed to appeal to young Latinos like Nicolas. The initiative, a 50-50 joint venture with Disney/ABC Television, hopes to engage members of the millennial generation, those roughly between the ages of 18 and 34.

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Univision’s first major push into English-language programming represents a recognition that most second- and third-generation Latinos watch television in English. Advertisers increasingly are interested in reaching this segment, which is among the fastest growing in the U.S.

“This is a huge opportunity. Hispanics are young, and the purchasing power of millennials is going to be bigger than baby boomers very soon,” said Isaac Lee, president of Univision News and the newly named chief executive of Fusion.

Twenty percent of millennials are Latino, Lee said, adding that while researching the target audience for the new venture, “we soon saw that the opportunity is not just with Hispanics, it is also with millennials.”

Fusion is scheduled to kick off Monday at 6:57 p.m. EST with a special edition of  “America with Jorge Ramos.” The hourlong show will feature an interview with President Obama conducted by ABC News correspondent Jim Avila. It also will include Ramos’ conversation with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a darling of the tea party, to discuss healthcare, immigration and Cruz’s political future.

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In addition to Ramos’ program, Leon Krauze, local news anchor at Univision’s Los Angeles station KMEX-TV Channel 34, will host “Open Source,” which will be broadcast from the station’s headquarters off the 405 Freeway in Westchester.

Fusion will launch with limited distribution, available in only about 20 million homes, or one-fifth of the households in the U.S. with paid TV subscriptions.

Three cable companies -- Cablevision, Charter Communications and Cox Communications -- as well as AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS and Google Fiber have agreed to carry the channel.

ABC is responsible for distribution, and Univision is in charge of programming. The two companies have been planning the new channel for more than two years.

Lee, the Colombian-born head of Fusion, is its primary architect.

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The channel, Lee said, will not try to cover breaking news because most younger viewers learn about big events through Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet.

Humor will be emphasized, Lee said. Krauze’s show, for example, is expected to be more relaxed in a bid for young viewers who turn to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” for much of their news.

Perhaps Fusion’s biggest challenge will be to position the venture as a Latino channel, without that becoming something of a turn-off.

“If you do that, you miss them,” Lee said. “They don’t want to be talked to as Latinos but they want to be part of the same room and part of the same conversation.... They are first Americans, and their main language is English -- but they are still Latinos.”

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Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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