Hispanic TV Summit: Schwimmer Says Nets Need to Stand for Something

New York -- Independent networks navigating the increasingly fragmented TV market need to differentiate themselves beyond just better pricing and more choice to be successful, they also need to take a stand, Fuse TV CEO Michael Schwimmer told a packed audience at the Multichannel News/B&C Hispanic TV Summit Thursday.

Schwimmer, speaking to Multichannel News/B&C editorial director Mark Robichaux, said that with so many ways for consumers to access content including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and a growing number of virtual MVPDs, independent networks have to offer something truly different.

"To have any success with platforms, be they pay platforms or other platforms, you need to be highly differentiated," Schwimmer said. "You need to give them something they otherwise don't have readily available in a cost effective manner."

For Fuse, that means targeting a young Latino and multicultural audience with content that resonates with them -- shows that feature Latinos in lead roles and that depict the Latino community as a part of mainstream society.

"I don't think television reflects that yet," Schwimmer said. "When you deliver that to viewers in a non-preachy way, it's just fun, it's entertainment, but you see somebody on screen who looks like you and maybe like your neighbor or like your cousin, it's going to feel good."

But just reflecting the community isn't enough. Schwimmer added that network brands need to stand for something other than just "big tent" entertainment.

"It's very hard to be a legacy general entertainment network," Schwimmer said. "The 'Big Tent' today is Instagram, Facebook, HBO, Netflix. Once get to come down 10,000 feet, you need to stand for something specific. The question is, what does your brand stand for? HBO has done a great job of doing that. In our case, it's very clear -- its Latino, its multicultural, it's young, there's a music filter to it. It's non-scripted, so if you're looking for a great drama, don't come to us. we're very specific about what we offer and who we offer it to. Which means We're not going to appeal to everybody, but we're going to appeal to some people. Hopefully they'll be passionate about what we do."

He added that viewers, especially young viewers, show more allegiance to shows where they feel a connection, where buying into the brand means something. He mentioned Toms Shoes,which gives a free pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair it sells.

"As a network you're an environment and you're environment needs to mean something and stand for something broader than any individual show," Schwimmer said.