Hilary Ready to Light Up a New ‘Fuse’

The new Fuse — a merger of the long-running music network and its new owner, Hispanic-targeted service NUVOtv — will officially launch on Wednesday Sept. 30. Currently in 70 million homes, the network will feature multicultural-themed programming such as Transcendent, a documentary series about young transgender women, and Fluffy Breaks Even, starring comedian Gabriel Iglesias, both of which will debut the on weekend of the network’s rebrand. The 40 million-subscriber channel now known as NUVOtv will be rebranded as FM, a music channel featuring live event programming targeted to millennials. Fuse Media president Bill Hilary spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the Fuse rebrand, the launch of FM and the challenge of being heard amidst the roar of a very crowded entertainment marketplace. An edited transcript follows.

RELATED MCN ORIGINAL VIDEO:One Question for ... Bill Hilary

MCN:How would you define the new Fuse brand?

Bill Hilary: NUVOtv built a strong foundation, and now we’re building on top of that. The foundation was very much built around the Latino audience, and we’re still going to be reflecting that with such stars as Gabriel Iglesias and shows like the Transcendent Girls.

MCN:Will we continue to see music content on the new Fuse?

BH: Here’s the great thing about the two channels — they actually reflect each other. Fuse had a large African- American audience because of its strong music base. You can’t have millennial programming without music being part of the language, and you can’t have multiculturalism without African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. So when you put them together you have a very strong foundation, which is what we have in Fuse.

MCN:Is there still a void to fill for multicultural content, given the explosion of content targeted to multicultural audiences in the last year on both broadcast and cable?

BH: I actually don’t think it’s actually as crowded as people say it is, and actually it’s quite the opposite: there still aren’t a lot of opportunities to offer multicultural programming in television. I think Viola Davis is saying what she said, that they need the opportunity, we need the opportunity. In many ways the media is behind, because we’re not reflecting the way America is changing, especially with the young millennial. [Davis on Sept. 21 became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama, ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, and said in her speech that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”]

MCN:Could you see a potential OTT offering for either Fuse or FM down the road?

BH: Absolutely. We’re looking at every means of distribution. The thing about millennials is that it’s not about the means of distribution for them; it’s about the content. So all of our content is going to live on linear but also very much on digital, and also live events. As we continue to get the right content for the network it will live in linear and in digital. Times are changing so quickly, especially for the young millennial. I don’t know if they’re changing as quickly as everyone thinks they are, but there’s no doubt that young millennials are accessing content on different platforms. We have to move with those times, but I don’t believe that in the next 24 hours everyone is going to stop watching TV. They still watch content, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s about. How you get it is a very different story, because they’ll get it on their phone, their computer, their television screen or they like to experience it when they go to a live event. So it’s more about the content and less about the means of distribution. But if you’ve got great content they will find it. What we should be more concerned about is finding programming that reflects their point of view.

MCN:How would you define FM?

BH: We’re excited about FM, but it will be a slow launch. It’s a very digital network, so every show on the air will live digitally. In November, we’re launching three new series that we haven’t announced yet, but one of the shows that I’m excited about it is called Explicit Language. It follows the tastemakers and those who are making noise in music and brings them together to have a voice on our linear channel about music and the new America. We will also have live events on the channel, and that’s important to FM as well. You’re going to see concerts as well as other big events like [standup] comedy shows. Concerts are still relevant because people want to experience a comedy or music event. Overall, we hope to tap into something that showcases the diversity within the community of music, instead of just showing pop videos.

MCN:Where do you see the Fuse and FM brands evolving into a year from now?

BH: This time next year, I hope we look like a media brand and not just two networks. It would be networks, live events digital with a host of big stars coming aboard that I can’t announce today. I’m hoping we have a family of news stars to reflect the new America and celebrate what’s happing in America in a multicultural, millennial way.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.