Fuse Stays 'After School’ With Program Block

This week Fuse is pushing a trio of interactive shows under its first official programming block, dubbed “After School Special.”

A.S.S. (the upstart’s music network’s designation for the block) will air weekdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. (ET). The block kicks off with the new half-hour clue/puzzle series Video IQ (repeated at 7 p.m.) and extant fare, Dedicate Live from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by Daily Download from 6 to 7 p.m.

Created by Tad Low (VH1’s Pop-Up Video), Video IQ is like a modern-day Concentration, said Fuse head of programming Robert Weiss. During each episode, viewers search for visual clues contained in music videos that combine to reveal a secret famous person, place or phrase from pop culture.

“The screen shrinks when the clues come up,” said Weiss, who said the plan calls for Video IQ, which premieres today, to run in 10-week cycles. While prizes will be awarded along the way, those who get the highest scores will get a chance to win such items as autographed guitars and plasma-screen TVs.

Rounding out the programming block are: Dedicate Live, which taps the Web to provide viewers with the opportunity to select and dedicate videos and receives some 6,000 messages daily, according to Fuse executives; and Daily Download, which counts down the top 10 legally downloaded songs in the U.S.

Weiss said the block should perform well against a tech-savvy group of viewers. “This is a three-way across the TV, Web and wireless platforms. Fuse has been built from the ground up with convergence in mind,” he said.

Fuse’s largest target audience is 12-to-34-year-olds, but the A.S.S. block figures to resonate strongly with the 12-to-17 set, given its after-school timing. All told, the network, citing Nielsen Media Research data, says it ranks No. 1 with that demo, in terms of nightly viewers per viewing household, from 7 p.m. to midnight thus far in 2004.

To support the block, vice president of marketing Mary Corigliano said Fuse for the first time is integrating program-specific advertising within the context of an overall brand push. Print and outdoor media will reflect creative, developed by Amalgamated of New York City in conjunction with the service, centering on the A.S.S. crest, an icon modeled after a school logo.

Print ads are running or will appear in Blender, Alternative Press, Jane, Fader and The Onion, among other titles.

In the months ahead, Weiss said Fuse will roll out its “next generation of programming, fully produced shows. We’ve been creating a lot of programs working with videos. This is the next logical step,” said Weiss.

The development slate, which is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks, is varied. It includes “profile pieces, performance fare, documentaries and reality formats,” said Weiss, who emphasized that all feature the network’s hallmarks of being music-centric and interactive.

Ushering in the new group of programming, most of which is expected to bow in the new year, is, appropriately enough, a profile on Usher.

Weiss said 100% will examine an artist’s music and lifestyle with the subject’s complete participation. The half-hour show will affix percentages to the things that are important in the subject’s life.

“It will be different artists and cut across genres. Green Day is also on board,” he said.

Weiss also talked up performance programming because “many groups and artists have been telling us they want to work with us.” Some shows are likely to emanate from the network’s Seventh Avenue studio in Manhattan.