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Fuse blasts Comcast, Verizon

Fuse Media has accused Comcast and Verizon of failing to support diversity after the US cable giants dropped the network.

Michael Schwimmer

Partially owned by Jennifer Lopez and targeting a multicultural youth audience, Fuse Media was dropped by Comcast and Verizon Fios on December 31.

This means the channel is no longer available via the Xfinity or Verizon Fios services, although it is still available in around 38 million pay television households as a result of various other carriage deals.

“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. This decision is both surprising and troubling considering that Fuse met Comcast’s financial demands and no other requirements were ever communicated to us,” said Michael Schwimmer, president and CEO of Fuse Media.

“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 behaviour leading to its decision to drop Fuse reveals an agenda inconsistent with their public statements, giving further credence to the merit of ongoing Department Of Justice oversight.”

Schwimmer added: “We have been dedicated from the very beginning to providing opportunities for diverse creative talent to entertain and inform diverse communities. 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.”

In response, Comcast told US media it carries more than 100 networks geared towards diverse audiences, including multiple networks owned or operated by minorities. It is set to launch two new African American majority-owned networks, Afro and Cleo TV, later this year.

Meanwhile, Schwimmer was similarly critical of Verizon after it offered Fuse Media an “unacceptable” carriage deal, resulting in the telco giant removing the network from its Fios service.

The impact of Verizon Fios’s decision will be a low single-digit reduction of Fuse’s distribution versus 2018 levels, Fuse Media said in a statement in which it also claimed to be one of the few television networks experiencing viewership growth.

“This is another instance of one of our nation’s largest telecommunications companies taking action inconsistent with its public posture regarding diversity. While claiming to be committed to supporting customers from underserved communities, Verizon Fios is removing unique content programmed to the passions and values of the large and growing multicultural millennial audience,” Fuse Media added.

The network originally launched in 1994 as MuchMusic USA and relaunched as Fuse in 2003, before being acquired by Lopez’s NuvoTV in 2014 and becoming Fuse Media. It recently acquired exclusive rights to comedy series WTF Baron Davis, starring the recently retired NBA star from the title.

The series adds to Fuse’s recently announced slate of music culture programming, including its first original adult animation, Sugar & Toys, and millennial entrepreneurship-themed series T-Pain’s School of Business.

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