On Sunday, president/CEO of Fuse Media, Michael Schwimmer, announced that Comcast has decided to drop Fuse, which focuses on multicultural programming. Schwimmer shared in a statement: “Despite Comcast’s publicly-stated commitment to support diverse and independently operated networks, Comcast has elected to drop Fuse, a multicultural-focused television network, on December 31, after more than a decade of carriage.”
He continued, “This decision is both surprising and troubling considering that Fuse met Comcast’s financial demands and no other requirements were ever communicated to us. A commitment to diversity is an enduring value, not a politically expedient card for Comcast to play until such time as consent decrees or business objectives no longer require it. Comcast’s behavior leading to its decision to drop Fuse reveals an agenda inconsistent with their public statements, giving further credence to the merit of on-going DOJ oversight.”
“We have been dedicated from the very beginning to providing opportunities for diverse creative talent to entertain and inform diverse communities,” said Schwimmer. “By removing our network from its consumer offering, Comcast is silencing yet another independent media company, in this case, one that is devoted to providing a platform for inclusive voices and authentic representation at a uniquely important time in our society.”
Comcast issued its own statement in response to the change in programming on Monday: “We regularly evaluate our channel lineups and sometimes make changes to ensure we’re offering customers a wide variety of the content that they want to see at the best value. Comcast carries over 160 independent networks and more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences, including multiple networks owned or operated by minorities.”
The company went on to address the dropping of Fuse, specifically: “In this case, much of the content carried by Fuse is similar to content that also is available on other networks, such as BET, BET Her, TV One, Bounce TV and Pop. We also are launching two new African American majority-owned networks, AFRO and CLEO TV. We understand that some customers may find Fuse’s programming of interest, and we will work with them to find options that will help them continue to watch other content like this programming.”
Fuse was down from about 74 million viewers in the last couple of years to 60 million as of February of this year. Comcast has a total of 22 million video subscribers. Due to Verizon Fios also dropping the channel, coverage will cost distribution in the low single digits from its 60 million base, Fuse said. Fuse has a loyal viewership, specifically from underserved communities. From 2015 through the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018, Fuse’s ratings were up over 50% in the highly wanted 18-34 age group.
This cut comes just as all of the major traditional Multichannel Video Programming Distributor’s (MVPDs) are taking a hard line with programmers to thin their lineups of underperforming niche channels. Making Comcast under the extreme pressure of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, and others.
The channel launched in 1994 as a music cabler owned by Cablevision, the former New York cable giant. Jennifer Lopez’s NuvoTV channel bought Fuse for $226 million in 2014 and merged operations under the Fuse banner.
T-Pain’s School of Business and The Hollywood Puppet Show, executive produced by Wilmer Valderrama, came to us from Fuse. Their programming also includes the Fuse Docs series of documentaries such as the Peabody Award-winning, Indivisible, about Dreamers.
Rolling into the New Year like… pic.twitter.com/RSuPHI4P5I
— Fuse (@fusetv) January 1, 2019