Trying out potential new names for MuchMusic USA, Rainbow Media executives toyed with "Interactive Music Exchange" and "Total Choice Music." But, when the goal is to meld hip young viewers with fresh new music and technology, "Fuse", they ventured, simply said it better.
So, on May 19, MuchMusic USA will relaunch as Fuse. The network will also move into a new $12 million midtown-Manhattan studio and kick off a new branding campaign.
Fuse still targets the same 12- to 34-year-old music fan. But, as when Rainbow relaunched Romance Classics as slightly hipper, younger WE: Women's Entertainment, "we saw an opportunity to energize [the network] and take it to a different place," said Rainbow President and CEO Josh Sapan.
To keep up with teens' short attention spans, Fuse's new look features scores of logos and a slew of—sometimes bizarre—taglines (among them, "Fuse: Tastes better than chicken" and "Fuse: Kicking ass and taking names").
Like MuchMusic, however, Fuse still wants to be the anti-Viacom music channel. Viacom owns MTV, VH1, BET and CMT, along with a batch of digital music nets.
"The need for an alternate voice is greater than ever," said Fuse President Mark Juris. "We're an independent alternative music network created for and driven by viewers."
Rainbow launched the music net in 1994 with Canadian programmer CHUM Group Television. In 2000, it bought out CHUM's interest and has been plotting this makeover ever since.
Ratings and distribution are other challenges. Fuse's Nielsen marks barely register; in the first quarter, the net averaged 49,000 households and did not count a household rating.
Distribution has grown steadily in the past two years to 31 million subs, according to Nielsen universe estimates. The channel has carriage deals with most major MSOs, but Rainbow is working to improve Fuse's tiering and channel positioning.