Cable network Fuse said it was being dropped by Comcast, effective Dec. 31, a move Comcast confirmed.
Fuse said it had not received an explanation for the decision from the cable operator, but complained that the decision runs contrary to the promises Comcast has made about making a commitment to support diverse and independently-owned programmers.
Update: Fuse on Monday said Verizon Fios also was dropping the channel as of Dec. 31. Fios, which on Dec. 28 dropped BlazeTV, also has warned customers it is facing a possible loss of Tegna TV stations as of 5 p.m. Dec. 31.
In a statement, Michael Schwimmer, CEO of Fuse, said dropping the network comes after Comcast was freed from the consent decree it agreed when it acquired NBCUniversal. The decree was designed to ensure that Comcast treated networks it didn’t own fairly.
Comcast is set to launch two new African-American targeted networks this month as part of a promise made in securing the NBCU merger approvals.
Fuse, which includes Jennifer Lopez among its owners, has been carried by Comcast for 10 years and says that its ratings are up among young viewers at a time when cable networks overall are down. Fuse also noted that its viewership is nearly three-quarters multicultural. Nielsen's household universe estimate of basic cable channels had Fuse in about 60 million homes in November.
Comcast confirmed it was dropping Fuse.
“We regularly evaluate our channel lineups and sometimes make changes to ensure we’re offering customers a wide variety of the content that they want to see at the best value," Comcast said in a statement. "In this case, much of the content carried by Fuse is similar to content that is also available on other networks. We understand that some customers may find Fuse’s programming of interest, and we will work with them to find options that will help them continue to watch other content like this programming.”
Here is the full statement from Fuse president Michael Schwimmer:
"Despite Comcast’s publicly-stated commitment to support diverse and independently operated networks, Comcast has elected to drop Fuse, a multicultural-focused television network, on December 31, after more than a decade of carriage. This decision is both surprising and troubling considering that Fuse met Comcast's financial demands and no other requirements were ever communicated to us.
"A commitment to diversity is an enduring value, not a politically expedient card for Comcast to play until such time as consent decrees or business objectives no longer require it. Comcast’s behavior leading to its decision to drop Fuse reveals an agenda inconsistent with their public statements, giving further credence to the merit of on-going DOJ oversight.
"We have been dedicated from the very beginning to providing opportunities for diverse creative talent to entertain and inform diverse communities. By removing our network from its consumer offering, Comcast is silencing yet another independent media company, in this case one that is devoted to providing a platform for inclusive voices and authentic representation at a uniquely important time in our society."
Update: Regarding Fios, Fuse Media said in a statement that "Verizon Fios’ final offer contained terms Verizon Fios understood were unacceptable and as a result, the telecommunications giant will be removing Fuse’s multicultural-focused television network from the Verizon Fios service. The impact of Verizon Fios’ decision will be a low single-digit reduction of Fuse’s distribution versus 2018 levels.
"This is another instance of one of our nation’s largest telecommunications companies taking action inconsistent with its public posture regarding diversity. While claiming to be committed to supporting customers from underserved communities, Verizon Fios is removing unique content programmed to the passions and values of the large and growing multicultural millennial audience."
Featured image credit: Getty Images for The ALMA Awards, which aired on Fuse in November.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.