Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Launches New Show on Hulu, How Can Univision Compete?

In a deal worth $200 million according to the New York Times, Univision has bought a stake in satirical newspaper The Onion. Univision's president of news, Isaac Lee, says that the biggest motivator for this deal was comedy's expanding role in culture.

“It has also proven to be an incredibly engaging format for millennial audiences and is expected to play a key part in the 2016 presidential election process via our robust content offerings in Spanish and English.”

Univision's acquisition is expected to bolster their digital reach among young demographics as well as diversify their audience. The company is expected to go public soon and is entering English-language media in order to look more attractive to investors, according to the Miami New Times.
Univision, which keeps its headquarters in New York but has much of its production and business operations in Miami, garners ratings that now compete with the major networks. It's not uncommon for the company's flagship network's offerings to attract more eyeballs than some of its English-language peers. Though, TV ratings are down across the board, and Univision's audience still skews older.  
That's a problem for Univision as its prepare to re-debut as a publicly traded company sometime later this year, especially as younger Hispanic Americans prefer to consume media in English. In other words, before returning to the stock market, Univision needs to prove to potential investors that it has a plan for the future.  
Univision also wants to use The Onion to produce new shows with a comedic slant for millenials on Fusion. The Onion has made attempts at producing television programming for IFC and Comedy Central in the past. Each show has been dealt with a sizzling consequence - cancellation. Still, Univision believes The Onion can serve as a complement to Fusion.
Univision executives saw The Onion as a complement to Fusion and its other properties, with comedy filling a vital role in culture, political discourse and the discussion of current events, according to the person briefed on the deal. They also saw the deal as helping Univision develop new comedy and satirical offerings in Spanish and English and collaborate with up-and-coming talent.
The problem with this proposition is that we're living in a media golden age. There is so much competition out there especially in the comedy world leading up to this year's election. The usual contenders of SNL and The Daily Show are not letting up while other online comedy powerhouses are launching online. All of these potential competitors could prevent Fusion from making a dent no matter how much help The Onion provides in terms of quality content or talent.

Barstool Sports recently received VC funding from Peter Chernin to create comedic videos and blog posts, Netflix is giving Chelsea Handler a documentary series focused on issues that will play a role in this year's election process while Jon Stewart is taking his talents to HBO for a major project that has yet to be announced. CBS recently launched a new late night show centered around smart conversation with Stephen Colbert. And we still haven't mentioned all of the other late night shows on the other broadcast networks, TBS and Comedy Central. Where does this leave room for Fusion to shine?

Hulu is even entering the political game with a comedy series about the upcoming election featuring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. The fake animal has been seen around the country at various events such as last week's Democratic debate, Republican rallies and town halls. It is unknown how the fake animal is able to obtain press passes to all these event but the program, which is expected to debut on February 5th, is sure to be a doozy according to tweets from journalists who have encountered the act.

Triumph, created by Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel, has been heavily featured on O'Brien's late night shows on TBS and NBC and will finally get his chance to shine solo after Smigel's Adult Swim show with Jack McBrayer was cancelled last year.

Smigel, O'Brien and Hulu have not confirmed the new show publicly but it has been promoted during campaign events of which the dog was in attendance. There is also no confirmation about whether this will be a documentary, episodic series or how many seasons/iterations it will last. Coincidentally, February also marks the month when one of Hulu's most anticipated program ever about JFK's assassination, 11/23/63, starring James Franco debuts. This means that Hulu could see a jump in users watching shows on their platform, increasing the odds of success for this unique look at what has become known as The Circus.

Hulu is taking the smart route of framing its election coverage around a well-known character who has a built in audience that has been developed for decades. Its also a different perspective from what you may normally see on the gazillions of other comedic options available on TV or on the web.

So where does this leave Fusion?

No matter how powerful Univision is, its going to be tough to convince cable companies to carry a network that doesn't have enough of a threshold to be rated. Comcast and Time Warner Cable will not budge their stances - declining to carry Fusion - due to this year's cord-cutting crisis unless the network finds a way to prove its worth.

Fusion needs to do use Hulu's strategy and find someone who draws viewers on their own in order to gain some notoriety and garner viewership. As of now, there are no characters scripted or unscripted associated with The Onion who can fit this category making it questionable how much The Onion can really help the fledgling network.

Fusion was built for the 2016 election cycle and needs to find a way to build its hype now! The Onion will help bolster Fusion's online statistics but definitely isn't a reasonable strategy that can help it survive past the 2016 election on the tube.

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