Univision’s upstart Fusion cable network has become known for featuring journalist Jorge Ramos. In the not too distant future, however, the TV outlet may get a boost from tapping into a group of names better known online: The Onion, Gizmodo and Jezebel among them.
Univision is primed to lay off staffers at Fusion, even as it prepares to use the assets of Gawker Media it acquired earlier this year, after taking a minority stake in comedy-news site The Onion, and purchasing African-American news site The Root in 2015. The company is eager to make the various parts of an assemblage it calls its Fusion Media Group work better together. In 2017, said Danny Eilemberg, president and chief content officer for Fusion, the company intends to make the various digital sites a more important part of its cable-TV network.
“We now have a portfolio of 11 very strong digital brands, and I think if you look around the industry in general, there’s a move by digital brands to try to break into television,” said Eilemberg, in an interview. “We can bring these two things together in a very unique way.” Univision in August took control of the Gawker Media assets – now known as Gizmodo Media Group – as part of a court-administered bankruptcy auction that took place in the wake of a lawsuit leveled at Gawker after it posted a sex tape featuring professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. Univision bid $135 million for the assets and shut down Gawker.com, the flagship site, after completing the purchase.
He declined to speak about employee layoffs in an interview on Tuesday. The Washington Post on Wednesday said Univision planned to lay off between 200 and 250 people, many of them at Fusion’s digital operations, in response to challenging economics.
Expect executives at the Fusion cable network to expand its programming by creating concepts around its various digital brands, whether they be car-news site Jalopnik; sports-focused Deadspin or productivity-news site Lifehacker. The hope is that digital-media fans of the various brands will follow them to TV. Univision’s maneuver follows others who have made smilar moves: NBCUniversal has experimented with the idea of creating programming based on Vox Media and Buzzfeed, two digital outlets in which it has investments. A+E Networks co-owns the Viceland cable network with Vice Media, and the outlet serves as a TV home for Vice content.
Fusion has already made a few small steps in this direction, working with The Onion to develop a program based on its pop-culture and reviews site The A.V. Club.
The company also intends to expand the use of streaming video on its various sites, said Eilemberg, adding more of it at each of the digital outlets. “There are a lot of opportunities that we think are going to come next year in the digital-video space,” he noted. By utilizing all the new sites under its umbrella, he added, Fusion Media can build scale that ought to be more attractive to advertisers.