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New Fusion network targets young English-speaking Hispanics

Broadcast giants ABC and Univision came together Monday to launch Fusion, a South Florida-based news and entertainment cable network aimed at young English-speaking Hispanics and their friends.

Based out of a new 150,000-square-foot studio in the Doral area of Miami-Dade County, the network's youngish crew of 200 broadcasters, reporters and Web producers are taking a more irreverent, humorous programming approach to reaching viewers ages 18 to 34 who don't traditionally watch live television. The idea is to combine news, pop culture and satire.

For now, Fusion is available on AT&T U-verse, Charter, Verizon and Google Fiber systems. Comcast, the major cable provider in South Florida, is not carrying Fusion.

"Fusion is positioned at the crosshairs of two of the biggest demographic waves since the baby boomers: Hispanics and millennials. The Hispanic population is driving the growth of the millennial population," said David Ford, vice president of communications for Fusion, during a tour of the new hub, which houses both Fusion and Univision's news operation. "We are looking to provide quality content for young and diverse America."

Fusion has been attracting buzz since the summer, when it announced the Oct. 28 launch date and primetime schedule, because of its strategy in reaching younger bilingual viewers, particularly Hispanics, the largest minority in the United States.

But will the strategy work? Teresa Ponte, head of the broadcast journalism department at Florida International University, said the jury is still out.

Her students represent Fusion's target bicultural audience who get their news from a mix of National Public Radio, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and on their mobile phones. (Perhaps not surprisingly, a former "The Daily Show" executive producer, David Javerbaum, is an executive producer at Fusion.)

"It's a huge gamble,'' said Ponte, of Fusion's approach with news and satire. "If they don't attract this younger incoming generation, who are not necessarily watching television but watching screens of different kinds, then there is no life for this business...

"It's an interesting experiment. I certainly hope it succeeds," she added. "With the resources of ABC and Univision, if they can't make a go of this, it would be unfortunate."

The parent networks have different roles in their new venture. Univision will lead content, while ABC will oversee distribution and ad sales. Talent from both will appear on Fusion for breaking news stories, analysis and light features.

Although the network is TV-based, it will produce short segments to be easily shared through other platforms such as online and mobile sites. On Monday, the network released a musical video featuring its diverse staff dancing through Fusion's newsroom and offices while singing about the company and its intended audience. The network hopes viewers will submit their own musical videos to feature on its morning show.

A July report from the Pew Research Center found that a growing number of Hispanic adults are seeking their news in English while the number of Hispanics looking for news in Spanish is declining. Although Univision and Telemundo perform well ratings-wise with their Spanish-language entertainment programs, especially in South Florida, officials want to tap into the next generation of Hispanics who prefer their media in English.

Still, there's a Hispanic flavor at the studio, where the hallways and control rooms brim with a combination of English, Spanish and Spanglish chatter.

As staffers prepared on Friday for the network's launch, the inside of the news studio glowed in fuchsia accents (think: a South Beach nightclub) that cast a giant "F" against the main wall of this former warehouse.

The "F" was everywhere, lording over a sleek green-and-white set for veteran Spanish-language anchor Jorge Ramos' new show called "AMERICA with Jorge Ramos."

"Good evening, I'm Jorge Ramos, and this is AMERICA,'' the anchor rehearsed into the camera. When he's done with this English-language show, he will stroll over to the Univision news set for his nightly newscast in Spanish.

"He walks about 50 steps from one language to another,'' added Ford.

A more light-hearted touch will be evident on the network's morning show, simply called "The Morning Show," and its Friday night public affairs show, "No, You Shut Up," hosted by Paul F. Tompkins with a panel of guests who may or may not be human. Some may be animals or inanimate objects from The Jim Henson Collection.

"We speak their language, we are interested in their issues, and we want to hear from them," said Brazilian journalist Pedro Andrade, who is co-host of "The Morning Show." "It's going to be a full circle sort of experience, whether it's through social media or the Internet." or 954-356-4939

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