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Univision’s Ill-Fated Cable Net Fusion Ceases Operations

Univision has pulled the plug on Fusion TV, the cable network it initially conceptualized as an English-language news and lifestyle channel targeting millennial Latinos. But it ended up being a mishmash with no true identity that evolved into a convoluted money-losing mess.

The network ceased operations today, December 31. Its rocky tenure lasted 8 years. Univision issued the following statement about Fusion’s demise:

“As a company and a brand, Univision is committed to serving Spanish-language audiences, currently in the U.S. and soon globally with the launch of our streaming service in 2022. To continue delivering on that mission, our sole focus will be on this growing audience – currently nearly 600 million strong – and, to that end, we ceased operations of English-language network Fusion TV on December 31, 2021. With this renewed direction under our new leadership, Univision is doubling down on its focus and strategic investments to fill the need for in-language and in-culture content for Spanish-speaking audiences around the world.” 

A company spokesperson would not address if and how its “doubling down” of its mission to serve Spanish-language audiences would affect UNews, an English-language newscast from repurposed Univision content, which launched in 2018 and was featured on the Fusion TV website. 

The move puts an end to a project that had a lot of promise but ended as a failed experiment that started with Univision partnering with ABC to launch Fusion as a joint venture.

The cable net launched in October 2013, quickly earning the moniker “Fusion Confusion.” The start-up faced numerous challenges, most notably, finding its own identity. Executives and staffers struggled to find the elusive millennial audience they were targeting. It didn’t help that a channel whose owners were two of the country’s top broadcast companies, had no brand recognition and trouble getting distribution.

Execs kept launching and pulling shows and talent. It was like they were throwing a bunch of spaghetti at a wall to see what would stick only to find nothing worked. There were a lot of questionable decisions about programming and management. 

Since its launch, Fusion cancelled many of its original TV shows (some which were unbearable to watch) and downsized personnel, yet invested heavily in bringing in high-profile digital journalists for its website, which was relaunched in February 2015. When Univision filed its plans for an IPO with the SEC in July 2015, it was forced to open its books, revealing Fusion lost $35 million in 2014 alone.

The joint venture relationship soured. Disney

DIS
-owned ABC parted ways in 2016. Fusion went through a series of cuts and changes in programming over the three years that followed and in 2018 attempted to rebrand itself with a new logo and on-air look. That didn’t help much, as the cuts kept coming. That year, producers and editors who worked on the cable network’s investigative documentary series The Naked Truth lost their jobs.

Univision’s acquisition of the Gawker and other sites such as The Root and a $27 million stake in The Onion and veering off into English-language content contributed to the company’s confusion in its own identity and the beginning of the end in that strategy. 

Shortly after Univision scrapped its attempt at an IPO, there was a flurry of leadership changes and departures. CEO Randy Falco announced his retirement from the company. Fusion execs were jettisoned, as the network continued to flounder into oblivion. 

There hasn’t been any new programming on the ill-fated cable net in three years. It’s a wonder the company didn’t pull the final plug until now. Perhaps it’s the final effort to clean house as the company prepares to enter a new phase in 2022 when Univision will merge with Televisa “to create the largest Spanish-language media company in the world.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/veronicavillafane/2021/12/31/univisions-ill-fated-cable-net-fusion-ceases-operations/