The Latino-led management of Fuse Media headed by CEO Miguel Roggero has acquired a controlling stake in the company, which plans to create original content and become a minority-owned leader with the growing multicultural millennial and Gen-Z demographic.
Roggero’s management group acquired a majority interest from the private equity firms and hedge funds that owned Fuse after it emerged from bankruptcy last June. How much money changed hands was not disclosed. The private equity groups still have a minority stake in Fuse Media and will remain long-term investors, he said.
“It was important for us to take control and align the ownership with the leadership team with our target audience. There aren’t a lot of examples of that,” Roggero told Broadcasting+Cable. “A lot of times ownership wants you to go in this way when you want to go in that way and it can slightly dilute your focus. And so we don’t have that any more and we will continue with the mission that we started with 16 years ago.”
The Fuse management team includes Judi Lopez, head of content distribution; Fernando Romero, head of ad sales; Marc Leonard, head of programming; marketing chief Mark McIntire and Patrick Courtney, who runs digital.
The shift to minority ownership will be felt by the audience in subtle ways, Roggero said.
“We probably will be able to go faster, be less distracted and do more,” he said. We’re a content company at the end of the day and we have a vast audience,” he said. “It’s the fastest-growing demographic in America and we have an opportunity to be the leading brand for this target audience. There’s a lot of white space and fertile ground. The election shows you the importance of this audience.”
The company’s new board includes Latino business leaders Tony Nieves, president of marketing agency MARCA, and Emeli Colletta, former head of marketing for Univision Interactive.
”In a complex and diverse society, media plays an important role in amplifying authentic storytelling and Fuse Media does the work to ensure Latino representation in front of and behind the camera,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), chair of the House Small Business Committee. “I’d like to congratulate them on their transition from Latino-led to Latino owned. Minority-owned businesses like Fuse Media are the heartbeat of our nation and the backbone of our economy,”
As a minority owned company, Fuse now may have access to additional financial resources as well as government and business set-aside programs. “I think that's an opportunity we have to explore,” Roggero said.
Fuse has a long history of ownership changes. It started in 1994 as MuchMusic USA, a joint venture of Cablevision’s Rainbow Media unit and CHUM Ltd. of Canada. CHUM sold its stake to Cablevision in 2000 and it rebranded in 2003 as Fuse, a music TV alternative to MTV. Fuse moved from Rainbow to Cablevision’s Madison Square Garden Co. in 2009.
Fuse was acquired for $226 million in 2014 by SiTV, backed by creative officer Jennifer Lopez. SiTV’s NuvoTV was merged with Fuse in 2015. The network lost distribution in 2018 and filed for bankruptcy in 2019. CEO Michael Schwimmer resigned and was replaced by Roggero, who had been COO and CFO.
The bankruptcy process let Fuse reduce its debt, Roggero said.
“That freed us everything and really just re-energized us. We emerged refreshed without the burden of debt and we’ve been full steam ahead,” he said.
Fuse will look to put more original content on its schedule. It creates much of its content through its own studio, which is more economical than buying from the outside. It also ensures that its programming consists of “the best entertaining and authentic stories that we can deliver to our audience,” Roggero said.
The company will also be focusing on expanding the Fuse brand oversees and is looking forward to the return of live events.
Fuse last year made a deal to create a branded channel on Pluto TV. It’s priority at this point is linear, but “as streaming platforms continue to grow, it’s definitely an area that’s important. We need to make sure we have a way to reach our audience across any platform.”
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