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Fusion Revamps Again to Focus on 2016 Election, Investigative Reports, Comedy

Fusion is shifting its programming focus again, this time to enhance its coverage of the 2016 presidential race and to boost its investment in investigative reporting.

Fusion CEO Isaac Lee outlined the changes in a memo to company staffers on Thursday. The Miami-based cable and digital channel is a joint venture of Univision Communications and the Walt Disney Co.

The shifts will result in an undisclosed number of staff layoffs. Some regular programs will be cut, including Alicia Menendez’s “Come Here and Say That” nightly headline and pop culture roundup show.

Menendez will be sent out to travel the country to cover the presidential election and report on issues of interest to millennial voters. The coverage from Menendez and Fusion’s primary news anchor, Univision’s Jorge Ramos, will be showcase on air and online under the “America” banner.

Investigative series and specials will be ramped up, starting with an eight-part series, “Traffic,” on the issue of global black market trafficking in a variety of goods. Fusion’s investigative reporting team will double in size, from 10 to 20 people.

Even as it ramps up issue-oriented programming, Fusion will also devote more resources to programs featuring comedians taking on topical issues.

Fusion bowed in 2013 as a news network aimed at U.S.-born Hispanics. It shifted focus within a year to a broader entertainment focus aimed at millennials. The latest incarnation seems to borrow a page from the content mix that has made Vice Media a digital sensation.

Lee in his memo to staffers noted that the cable channel has expanded to a subscriber base of more than 40 million, thanks to the distribution clout of its parent companies, and the website now reaches more than 8.2 million unique visitors a month.

But there are questions about how long Disney and Univision will continue to invest in Fusion. According to financial data Univision disclosed as part of its upcoming IPO, Fusion has yielded a net loss of more than $60 million since its launch. That’s not unusual for a startup cable channel, but it comes at a time when even the largest media giants are facing the prospect of adjusting to leaner profits from the traditional cable programming business.

For now, Fusion is hoping to gain some traction with efforts to tap into the heightened interest in the presidential race and news and documentary programming with a millennial skew.

“We’re building Fusion on an incredibly solid foundation — and while change is never easy, I have always said it will be a constant for us as a start-up,” Lee wrote in his memo. “We will always be a company that will learn and adapt, pushing to define what’s next. And when we find those things that work well, and new opportunities, we’ll jump in with both feet.”

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