A little over two years ago, two established old-media companies decided they knew exactly what the elusive millennial viewer wanted: a joint venture between two established old-media companies!
Univision and the Walt Disney Company, through its subsidiary ABC News, launched the Miami-based Fusion network in 2013, but now Disney reportedly wants out and wants out quick. The Wall Street Journal reports the company wants to sell its stakes in the money-losing network by the end of the calendar year.
The original plan made a lot of sense on paper — at least to executives at both companies. The idea was to launch a news and commentary network aimed at young Hispanic-Americans who spoke English. Univision would demonstrate it could have success in English-language programming; Disney would gain a foothold in the growing Hispanic-American demographic. Univision and ABC's news divisions would pull resources to provide programming for the central cable network, but Fusion would aggressively pursue an audience across online channels as well. Affiliate fees from cable companies would help to fund those multi-platform efforts.
Though, market research soon bared out the idea that young Hispanics don't like to be marketed to as young Hispanics, so instead the network retooled itself to go after all millennials. Undeterred, the company went on a hiring spree, recruiting several blue-chip writers from other outlets.
Fusion hopes to compete with the likes of Vice and Buzzfeed. The main difference is that those outlets grew from smaller beginners into the major internet brands they are now while experimenting along the way. Fusion, meanwhile, hit the ground running as a major organization with a cable network attached from the very start. If Vice and Buzzfeed are Uber and Lyft, perhaps Fusion is ZabCab.
Its worth noting that Disney's reported interest in exiting Fusion comes just after it sunk a $400 million investment into Vice. Vice will launch its own cable network, Viceland, in February. The network will be a partnership with A+E Networks. (Disney also has a separate 50 percent stake in A+E.)
Fusion reportedly lost $35 million during its year in existence, per SEC filings. Its television ratings aren't monitored by Nielsen, and its social media reach, as measure by Facebook likes and Twitter followers, is dwarfed by Al Jazeera America, another cable news network that launched just a few months before.
However, Fusion claims its audience continues to grow steadily. The network claims its audience across all platforms now reaches 25 million people a month. It also recently debuted a channel on Snapchat's Discover section.
The most likely result is that Univision will end up buying out Disney's stakes (though WSJ reports other scenarios haven't been ruled out). Univision is planning a public offering sometime next year, and a commitment to both English network media and online audiences will certainly help make it seem more attractive to Wall Street.