Fusion is slowly coming out with its gameplan for launch in October and as more details begin to come out, it has become apparent how Fusion expects to make noise in the cable news world.
1. Serving as the English language advocate for Latinos through Univision personalities
2. Serving as the place for young people to get their news in a relatable, informative and satirical way
In my opinion, those are great ideas and with enough attention to detail and focus on high quality programming, I believe this network can make some noise and on a really good night, take down CNN.
They are killing two stones in one and focusing on audiences which are way under served in cable news. The question I have though is where does this leave room for ABC?
On a profile published in the Miami Herald, it was revealed that ABC will use its Disney counterparts aka ESPN to push distribution for the network while Univision maintains creative control. And according to another profile done by Reuters, ABC will be used for breaking news and special events such as election night. They're foreign bureaus will also be used for reporting.
In my mind as I read those stories, I thought "that's it! Really?". I've been waiting for Univision to step into the English market for a long time because having watched their programming and understanding Spanish I know what they're capable of. I especially became captivated with Univision when they had an exclusive primetime interview with a popular Latino priest who gained controversy for dating a woman after getting a divorce or something like that. (if Fusion was around at that time, an exclusive like that in English would be big given the fact that all the cable news outlets were talking about it as well)
But what excited me more was that finally there would be an extension of ABC News available outside of 7am and 6:30pm. ABC does some of the best journalism and interviews in the industry and having access to that on a 24/7 basis is a really great idea. But unfortunately, it looks as though Univision is winning all parts of this "partnership" with ABC getting the raw deal.
I wanted Fusion to not only feature English versions of Univision programs and young voices but to also have extensions of ABC infused into it, similar to NBC and MSNBC. It's a blessing as a political junkie to have access to Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell for more time than just a 5 minute hit on "Today" or "Nightly"; the fact that at 9am and 1pm, I can hear analysis of what's going on from reporters on the trail with insight gives me more perspective than I could possibly get out of those minimal 5 minutes.
ABC has tried to give their personalities more airtime through its Yahoo partnership but it seems like they're getting the raw end out of that deal as well because none of ABC News' originals for Yahoo are promoted or prominently featured. You have to search very intently to find what you're looking for which isn't convenient for the viewer at all. With the exception of ABC producing special reports during breaking news/special events and teaming up for the GMA site, the Yahoo partnership hasn't been much of anything. Out of all the new and old media partnerships its probably the most successful but that's not saying much.
George Stephanapolous may not fit Fusion's demographic (neither does Jorge Ramos lol) but what political junkie wouldn't want him to host a daily morning rundown of what's going on in politics with in depth analysis (that's just an example, I don't know if he could fit that into his schedule unless he's off of the 8am hour of GMA). Or how about an extension of GMA? It's doing great in the ratings but there's no space to extend it on ABC because the 9am show currently on ABC (Kelly and Michael on most ABC affiliates) is also doing pretty well itself so why not push for an afternoon extension to Fusion or a simulcast with the online "GMA Live" show to compete with "Today"?
ABC has so much talent but because they don't get ample air time they end up leaving to go elsewhere (see: Tapper, Berman, Cuomo, Snow). A devils advocate would say that just as many people who left is the same amount of people they were able to get back. But why pay so much money for so much great talent if they're just going to be used for 5 mins. a day.
Now, if you're ABC, you might say we're just going to throw all our extra content online. But if there's no convenient way to access content and you just throw everything out there without any guidance how do you expect consumers to consume your product appropriately? A lot of good content gets lost in the shuffle because its just thrown online.
I'm not saying that ABC should just throw all their talent on Fusion even if they serve no purpose with the mission of the network but at the same time you have to find a way to fuse them in somehow. People like Linsey Davis, Byron Pitts, Gio Benetiz, Ron Nelson, Paula Faris etc. have a lot of stories to report but no time to report it because of time restrictions. They're young, intrepid and great storytellers and with Fusion, they would have a great opportunity to tell more stories with more time.
But if Univision is going to have all of the creative control of the network and ABC doesn't input any content into the network then it hasn't done anything to move itself ahead of CBS, which is the only other news org with no cable backbone. If anything, they'll be at the same position as before with just more obligations. Being used "only when needed" and not being part of the equation is never a good position to be in, just ask Ann Curry.
It's only August so I may be looking too much into this and there are probably other ways ABC will be utilized than what is being revealed at the moment. But the way that this sounds so far, I wouldn't expect ABC to be involved with Fusion for too much longer if the way I'm looking at it is the reality of the situation. ABC will probably bow out in 5 years and partner with CNN, AJA, or Bloomberg to find a cable home which can provide time for talent and dual revenue. Or they may just try to compete with HuffPoLive and start a daily online news network on Yahoo, who knows?
(I have to point out that despite this analysis, Fusion's website and video are housed on ABC's website and the Fusion team have made a number of visits to various ABC shows over the past month. Just as there is no word on whether ABC personalities will be on Fusion, it is also unclear whether Fusion hosts will be featured on ABC shows.
It is worthy to point out though they will be working next door in Miami to Uni Noticias which means that they'll most likely become more friendlier with them while ABC will always be the pestering parent that doesn't really know what's going on because they're all the way in New York, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. We'll find out soon enough but I wish Fusion the best and I'm excited for another perspective)