Attack of the Millennial Networks

Networks go after young viewers, all at the same time.

July 9, 2013— -- Hi, we’re Alex and Jorge. We’re young, bilingual and college-educated, and that makes us the prime target of cable TV business today. Never mind that we don’t watch - or even own - television. That makes us even more enticing. Oh the possibilities! In fact, you’re reading this story on the ABC News website as we gear up for the launch of Fusion, a news and lifestyle cable network that ABC and Univision are launching later this year.

Fusion’s target audience are young people, specifically English-speaking Latinos in the U.S. By the end of the year there will be at least three entirely new media networks going after similar audiences that Fusion is targeting--young people ages 15 to 34,  the generation dubbed “millennials.”

The new network’s executives say they’re filling a void but they’re also going after a group with extraordinary buying power. By 2017 millennials will have more spending power than any other generation.

Let’s take a look at these new networks, what sets them apart from the others and their chances of survival in this incredibly crowded space.

Go Big or Go Home

The new networks are backed by big names and media powerhouses and in Fusion’s case, two media powerhouses coming together to launch a joint venture. Next month on August 1st, Participant Media--the company behind the films “The Help” and “An Inconvenient Truth”--is launching a network called Pivot that targets millennials interested in inspiring change.

There’s also El Rey and Al Jazeera America. And even Sean “Puffy” Combs has been tapped to curate the network dubbed “Revolt.”

Fusion and El Rey, both Univision-supported English-language networks that seek to reach, inform, and entertain predominantly English-speaking Latinos and, more broadly, the millennial generation as a whole. El Rey will focus not on news content, but on “a mix of reality, scripted, music and sports programming, along with movies, with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez at its helm.

Huff Post Live and Vice aren’t launching their own traditional TV networks per se but are a powerful force producing innovative video content across several different platforms that are already reaching young people pretty successfully.

For the purposes of clarity, this story will refer to the estimated 100 million individuals ages 15-34 in the U.S. as “millennials” but let the record state this group resists labels. That’s why this group has been referred to an endless number of descriptors including Generation Y, Generation 9/11 and Generation Plan B.

Demographers and marketing executives haven’t been able to pin down a label for young adults that has stuck around but what they have figured out is that millennials have tremendous buying power. And they’re consuming media.

For every study out there that says millennials no longer watch TV, there’s a study that says they are indeed watching a lot of TV. But one thing the studies agree on is millenials want their content wherever they are, whenever they want it. And the media giants are obliging.

The Kids Are Still Alright

Historian and demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe are widely credited for coining the term millennials. They use 1982 as the millennials' starting birth year and 2004 as the last birth year.

Millennials include individuals who grew up with MTV and who remember the terrorist attacks of September 11th vividly. Its a group that’s been surrounded by more media and advertising than any other generation. This group is also highly attuned to when it’s being marketed to and they’ve grown up with buzzwords and “viral” campaigns, without the curtain that previously divided consumers and those who would have them consume.

It’s the generation that spans from people who were in their teenage years in 1994 when they watched a gay man living (not dying) with AIDS on MTV for the first time ever to those who were newborns when "The Office," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Lost" premiered ten years later.

It’s the generation that is as diverse as the content they consume.

The millennial generation is more ethnically diverse than any other previous group. Fourteen percent of U.S. millennials were born outside the U.S., and 11 percent of those born in the U.S. have at least one immigrant parent. They care about equality and the environment. They buy things through their mobile devices. And they also consume their TV and music through a variety of devices.

A number of the networks launching this year are targeting young English-dominant Latinos (including us at Fusion, of course.) It’s a demographic growing at an extraordinary pace and group that is becoming more educated by the day and as result a group with more buying power.

Fusion’s main target are Latinos but the content will appeal to young people in general and will be serious and not so serious.

“Our audiences heads don’t snap when they move from a high culture to a popular culture topic, they have eclectic interests and define those interests very much from their gut,” says Billy Kimball, Fusion’s senior vice president and chief programming officer. Kimball’s resume include writing episodes of "The Simpsons" as well as the award-winning documentary "Waiting For Superman."

It’s a similar model that MTV thrived on in the early years. At 10:00pm you could watch “The Real World” taking place in San Francisco that followed Pedro Zamora, the Cuban-born gay man living with AIDS and then minutes later viewers were sitting through “Beavis and Butthead.”

Huffington Post’s founding editor Roy Sekoff says that’s really the way people consume media. He’s the president of HuffPost Live which delivers streams original content online and through content streaming services including Boxee and Roku.

“When you come to the Huffington Post you may come to see what’s the latest that’s happening with the filibuster in Texas the you go and say wait a minute, what’s the latest happening here with Kim and Kanye and you go to 12 ways I can save my marriage,” says Sekoff.

The number of new networks launching will really let millennials pick and choose, just like we want it.

“There’s a 100 million millennials in the United States and there’s actually a lot of room and there’s a lot of room for content targeted at that demographic,” said Evan Shapiro, the president of Participant Television, the company launching Pivot.

“We’re looking at the subset of them who are focused on two things: quality entertainment and socially relevant content,” he told Fusion.

The Attack of the Millennial Networks

Here’s a breakdown of the networks, we’ll start with ourselves.


The ABC and Univision joint venture.

Primary Platforms: Cable TV, Online

Launch: Fourth quarter 2013

Target audience: Millennials, center of target is English dominant Latinos in that age group

Programming: News and lifestyle programming, including a primetime English language news show hosted by Jorge Ramos. Other on-air talent includes Alicia Menendez, formerly of Huffpost Live and Derrick Ashong, formerly of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.


Participant Media’s cable network.

Primary Platforms: Subscription cable TV and online streaming content

Launch: August 1, 2013

Target audience: Millennials interested in social change, a documentary series could be targeting Latinos.

Programming: Joseph Gordon-­-Levitt and Meghan McCain are starring in their own shows. Pivot has promised 300 hours of original programming in it's first year. Pivot is also partnering with Univision News and Latin World Entertainment to produce and market a series of ten compelling documentaries drawn from the headlines and produced in both Spanish and English.

(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

El Rey

Robert Rodriguez’s newest playground.

Primary Platforms: Cable TV

Launch: December 2013

Target audience: Millennials, center of target is English dominant Latinos in that age group

Programming: Entertainment -- scripted and unscripted, animation, film, music and sports programming. Set to debut with “From Dusk ‘til Dawn” TV series as well as a take on a “Latino James Bond.” So far, no casting info has been revealed.

(Photo by Jennifer Graylock/FilmMagic)


Primary Platforms: Cable TV, web

Launch: 2013

Target audience: Millennials

Programming: Entertainment -- music programming, interviews, cultural coverage. "We will not be doing a bunch of reality shows,” Diddy has noted.

While Diddy has spoken about partnerships he’s interested in forming with Revolt -- so far, he’s namechecked YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Beats (by Dre) -- there’s been no word on hosts or other talent involved with the network. However, Revolt’s site has made it easy for those interested in joining to do so by clicking the “We Want You” tab. (Photo by Richard Bord/WireImage)

These networks and content providers have been around for a while, but keep re-inventing themselves, adapting to millennials’ discerning tastes.


(formerly Si TV)

Primary Platforms: Cable TV

Launch: Launched as Si TV in February 2004, renamed and revamped on July 4, 2011 in bid to better reach bicultural Latinos -- especially since “si,” in Spanish,” can sound like “see” or “sea” in English.

Target audience: Millennials, center of target is English dominant Latinos in that age group Programming: Entertainment: lots of reality programming aimed at and starring bicultural Latinos like Mario Lopez, Anjelah Johnson, and Kat von D. Also on its roster of talent is Jennifer Lopez, who was named the network’s Creative Officer this year. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

HuffPost Live

Network name: HuffPost Live

Primary Platforms: Online and television through set top boxes. Radio soon.

Launch: Currently streaming live content online.

Target audience: When asked Huff Post Live President Roy Sekoff says he’s a “believer in doing best programming possible and letting the audience find it.” However on screen talent on the network skews young.

Programming: Currently produces 12-hours of original content daily on weekdays that’s delivered in segments and tied to the news cycle. HuffPost features a rotating team of host/producers, including: Marc Lamont Hill, Abby Huntsman, Alyona Minkovski, Nancy Redd, Mike Sacks, and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.

Vice Video

Programming: Subject matter includes humanitarian issues, music, insider travel guides, and news. "We do music, we do books, we do magazines, we do online, we do mobile, we do television, we do film. We do what everyone else does. We do it weirder, and we do it younger, and we do it in a different way and in a different voice," Vice's CEO and co-founder, Shane Smith, told NPR earlier this year.


Telemundo’s channel with programming aimed towards a young Latino audience.

Since it first came into being in 1993 as GEMS television before being acquired by Telemundo in 2001, mun2 has catered to a Latino audience in the U.S. Since 2001, this meant airing sports, music, and reality programming in English, Spanish, and in “Spanglish” in an effort to reach out to a younger, acculturated audience. One of the network’s most popular and influential personalities was the late Mexican-American powerhouse Jenni Rivera, whose reality series “I Love Jenni” (and its various related shows, all executive produced by Rivera) proved a hit for the channel. Even after her death, Jenni’s shows are still heavily promoted by mun2, alongside shows like “Alerta Zero,” which follows former members of a Regional Mexican group as they form a new band, “Fugitivos De La Ley: Los Angeles,” which focuses on bounty hunters in LA.

TR3S: The Latino MTV Network

MTV has experimented with a Spanish-language station since 1998, ultimately settling on MTV Tr3s in 2006, now known simply as “tr3s.” Emphasizing mostly on music programming and reality shows, Tr3s features content in both Spanish and English, not all of which deal explicitly with Latino-oriented content and personalities. For example, the network airs reruns of “The George Lopez Show” as well as “Teen Mom” and shows like “El Luchador.” The network's “Unplugged” series has also served it well, offering its audience intimate televised concerts with stars who hold crossover appeal -- like Juanes, Zoe, and Julieta Venegas -- as well as the likes of Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, Trey Songz, and others.

Latinos Have Already Changed TV

Young Latinos are not only leading the most important demographic changes in the country today but they’re also heavily influencing the pop-culture landscape and media companies alike. Take for instance, one of the most successful TV shows on air at the moment: NBC’s “The Voice” hired Shakira as a judge and included more contestants who were singing in Spanish.

The networks launching will have to figure out how to seamlessly integrate content targeting Latinos with content that works for all millennials as well. Young viewers have grown up saturated with media and they have finely tuned senses. And young Latinos don’t want “separate but equal” they want the same type of content everyone else wants that just so happens to be conscience of their experience and history.

Whether they know how to articulate it or not, millennials have the most critical eyes. They value production value --things have to look good and polished. They also value their time -- the story has to captivate them within the first few seconds, and it has to stand out amidst all the noise being hurled at this demo. Not only that, but the content has to work on screens of all sizes.

All daunting goals for the new networks as they compete to become a part of this generation’s news and entertainment consuming habits. Not all will make it. And when the dust finally settles, the story may very well not be about networks attacking our airwaves and bandwidth, but millennials attacking the networks.

Our (humble-ish) advice? Don’t create for millennials. Create with them.