By Jon Lafayette
Rambunctious music channel Fuse is starting 2005 by airing 300 new episodes of original programming over the next month while launching eight new shows.
The channel has also added new executives in charge of advertising and distribution and launched a search for a new president.
Despite the departure of President Marc Juris for Court TV last summer, Fuse’s programming department has been very busy, according to Robert Weiss, head of entertainment and interactive. In addition to the new shows, Fuse has renewed nine series, including five that have premiered since last fall. The 300 new episodes more than double the amount of original programming the channel aired last year.
While Fuse has made a fuss about how hard it is to find music videos on MTV, the channel’s new shows will replace generic, unhosted music video hours. Despite the changes, Fuse boasts “more video hours than any other channel that claims to be a music channel,” Mr. Weiss said.
Mr. Weiss said contrast with MTV remains strong. He noted that MTV last week announced it is picking up five additional seasons of “The Real World,” while all of Fuse’s shows are “completely music-centric.”
For now, Fuse is concentrating on programming specific time-period blocks, particularly the after-school period and late-night. While some shows are emerging as appointment viewing, such as “Video IQ” at 4:30 p.m., “Dedicate Live!” at 5 p.m. and “Daily Download at 6 p.m., shows that air in one time slot are frequently re-aired in other dayparts.
Mr. Weiss said that later this year the network will put together prime-time and weekend programming blocks.
Many of the new shows were developed around on-air VJs well known to Fuse viewers. All are designed to meet Fuse’s three-pronged objective of being music-focused, multiplatform and infused with Fuse’s irreverent attitude.
The shows include:
w “Steven’s Untitled Rock Show,” hosted by VJ Steven Smith, which focuses on independent music. Fuse executives couldn’t come up with a name for the show, Mr. Weiss said. After a sneak preview, Fuse viewers voted overwhelmingly to keep the “Untitled” name.
w “The F-List,” Fuse’s version of a countdown show, with input from viewers.
w “Fuse Action News, which the network bills as the softest news on television.
w “Comp’d,” which offers a viewer a chance to get close to a band at a private concert. First act up is Sum 41.
w “Slave to the Metal,” which features VJ Juliya offering advice about music, life and sex interspersed with heavy-metal videos. Mr. Weiss described it as “Dr. Phil” in leather, and said satellite and terrestrial radio broadcasters are interested in doing an advice show with Juliya, one of the network’s original VJs.
w “Celebrity Tastemaker” looks at celebrities’ music preferences. One episode visits with the cast of teen favorite “One Tree Hill.”
w “Fusified” is an anthology series, with several different looks at music.
w “Fuse Worldwide Sports” is a monthly look at collisions between the worlds of music and sports.
Those shows will begin airing Jan. 17. At the same time, the network will unveil an updated on-air look and new station IDs.
In July, Fuse will launch its reality show, “Ultimate Gig,” the Fuse VJ search. Viewers will be able to vote online for the network’s new personality.
Fuse is owned by Cablevision Systems Group and has experienced some management turnover, having lost both Mr. Juris and marketing chief Mary Corigliano to Court TV last year.
A spokesperson said the network has launched a formal search for a new president. The network currently reports to Cablevision Sports and Entertainment Networks President Andrea Greenberg.
Fuse recently hired Bill Rosolie as senior VP of advertising sales. Cablevision promoted Joe Glennon to senior VP of distribution and put him in charge of affiliate sales for Fuse.
Despite barely registering in the Nielsen Media Research ratings, Fuse is seen by some advertisers as a good way to reach viewers in the 12- to 34-year-old age group. The network claims to have the highest concentration of those young viewers.
Mr. Rosolie, who previously was senior VP and director of advertising sales for the TV Guide Television Group, said that with more original programming, he expects to begin to shift Fuse’s ad sales, which are now run-of-schedule, to more individual program buys. In some cases with shows that air repeatedly, he will try to accumulate those unduplicated viewers, offering advertisers a larger audience.
Product Placement Possible
Even given the short attention span of viewers in the 18 to 34 demographic Fuse attracts, Mr. Rosolie said more original long-form programming should increase viewers’ length of tune, making the channel more attractive to advertisers. The network’s interactive effort should also keep viewers attached, he added.
Both Mr. Rosolie and Mr. Weiss said they are open to product placement and integration on the network.
Mr. Glennon said Fuse has about 39 million subscribers, mostly on the digital tier. The digital universe is about 44 million right now.
He said he will work to expand distribution of Fuse’s on-demand service, which is now in 30 markets. The service has a playlist of about 75 videos but will add more Fuse on-air programming, including performance shows, to its mix.