A network is being born here, conjured during brainstorming sessions, such as this one, from an amalgam of assiduously curated data and sudden inspirations. The last time the group met, someone was making a presentation about their target audience, an evolving bull’s eye that wobbles in a range between 18-year-olds and 30-somethings and encompasses everything from artsy urbanites to buttoned-down professionals. Wait a second, I was just hanging with those people, thought Rayner Ramirez, a former Dateline NBC producer hired to help develop the new channel.
While Chocolate curls next to a young producer, Ramirez pitches a weekly program about the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on New York’s Lower East Side. Voila! A show, or at least, a possible show — conceived in a matter of weeks, complete with demo footage from the New York hot spot.
“Didn’t you used to spit there, Alejandro?” Ramirez asks an exec slouched deep in the folds of the big blue couch.
“Yeah, in college,” comes the casual-cool, ain’t-no-big-thing response.
Maybe the show will be a contest.
Maybe the show will have profiles.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
They’ve got a lot of time to fill and a lot of maybes that are still maybes.
They’ve got stars to parlay — and amplify. Fusion is developing a voicy late-night news program anchored by Leon Krauze, the host of the Univision nightly news in Los Angeles — a program that routinely tops that huge market’s English-language newscasts and is touted by Univision as the top-rated local newscast in the country. And they’ve brought in Billy Kimball, a highly respected Hollywood veteran who has written for Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central, as well as penning numerous episodes of the Simpsons, to shape satirical programming.
They want to be edgy. They want to be unique. They want to be the place “the cool kids hang out.” They want to be a broadcast network that moves fast, thinking “digital first.” So, of course, they have a web whiz whose name is . . . Nuria Net. “People think I made up my name,” she shrugs.
They talk about “extreme news,” “irreverent writing.” They want “nontraditional pundits,” one exec enthuses.
“If you can think of them, we don’t want them!” half the room calls back, part pep rally, part Greek chorus.
Getting cool requires delicate maneuvering. Take, for instance, the case of Ramos, the silver-haired anchor whose serious, authoritative on-air presence is more Scott Pelley than Jon Stewart.
Lee’s team is thinking seriously about broaching a once-unthinkable subject with Ramos, who will lend his star power to the new network by anchoring an evening news program while maintaining his duties at Univision. They might ask Ramos to take off his tie. This possibility is raised with an air of nervous anticipation. (Later, in an interview, Ramos doesn’t hesitate to endorse the idea. “I would love to! I think ties are a mistake.”)