For nearly two decades, Fuse Media CEO Michael Schwimmer has had his finger on the pulse of a multicultural community looking for content that reflects its images and culture. From his innovative work in the mid-1990s at satellite-TV service Dish Network, developing international and Hispanic-themed network packages, to his most recent efforts with networks NUVOtv and Fuse to reach “The Nu America” and its diverse communities of millennials, Schwimmer has always focused on connecting with a growing-but-underserved viewer base.
Schwimmer’s perseverance in serving multicultural viewers has earned him many accolades within the industry as well as this year’s T. Howard Foundation Award for Executive Leadership.
Speaking Viewers’ Language
Schwimmer, who taught himself Spanish at age 15 while attending high school in diverse Southern California, said he learned the value of understanding the entertainment needs and desires of multicultural audiences while working as an international lawyer in Brazil and Spain in the early 1990s.
“I knew how important it was for me at the time to be able to see some amount of TV programming from the U.S.,” he said. “It was an important connection for me. So it wasn’t a stretch to see that, in a nation of immigrants, the ability to be able to deliver Polish programming to the Polish community or Indian programming to different segments of the South Asian community, or Russian and Vietnamese programming to those constituencies, would be important.”
As executive vice president of programming and marketing for Dish in the mid-1990s, Schwimmer did just that, overseeing the U.S. launch of more than 100 foreign-language television channels from around the world, targeted to America’s immigrant populations.
Schwimmer also spearheaded development of the satellite television service’s Dish Latino programming platform—the first Spanish-language network package targeted directly at Hispanic viewers.
“Michael was ahead of his time with inclusive programming and the workforce,” said Fuse Media senior VP of affiliate distribution and marketing Judi Lopez, who worked with Schwimmer at Dish. “For years, he’s forged the way for so many voices, and stood by his principles that diversity and inclusion are vital to our business and society.”
Schwimmer would revolutionize Hispanic-targeted television again as head of SiTV (now Fuse Media) by launching NUVOtv in 2012, an English-language network targeted to young Latino viewers who grew up in the U.S. speaking English.
Schwimmer recruited pop music star and actress Jennifer Lopez as the network’s creative content officer to help develop content that speaks to young, assimilated Hispanic viewers.
“The majority of Latinos don’t watch Spanish-language television because it doesn’t reflect their reality as American citizens, or those who have moved here from other Spanish-speaking countries at a young age,” Schwimmer said. “It just seemed like a huge gap in programming for the country’s largest ethnic community.”
This fall, Schwimmer is looking to target a multicultural millennial viewer base that identifies with diverse entertainment content through a combined NUVOtv and Fuse and a new music-themed service, tentatively dubbed FM. With half of Americans under 18 expected to be non-Caucasian by 2020, Schwimmer says anyone who doesn’t reach out to this emerging demographic is making a strategic business mistake.
“We’re facing a different country than our television programming caters to right now,” he said. “Television has been behind the multicultural evolution our country has been undergoing. I think that only now we’re just waking up to our nation’s diversity.”