Isaac Lee, the Colombia-born 42-year-old in charge of news at the Spanish-language network Univision, is a traitor: first to his native tongue, and second to his generation. As the architect of the forthcoming all-news channel Fusion, Lee is plotting the first English-language broadcast for a network whose main draw for the last half-century has been that it’s en Español. In that niche, which has long since grown into a mass market, Univision has dominated its rivals, styling itself, with just a hint of hubris, as “the Hispanic heartbeat of America.” When Fusion goes live on Oct. 28, Univision’s programming will suddenly be bilingual, with 24 hours of English to match its 24 hours of Spanish.
The greater betrayal, at least for reporters of a certain age, is Lee’s determination to reach millennials with cable news. Television news audiences have been graying across networks, and Fusion is supposed to cater to 18- to 34-year-olds, who would as soon listen to Bing Crosby as watch Brian Williams. “If one year from now, you turn on Fusion and it looks for a second like it’s Univision news, I should be fired,” Lee says. “Right now our target viewers probably don’t watch any news,” he adds. “They watch The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, and Girls. When they do watch news, it’s a different type of news: Jon Stewart is news; The Colbert Report is news. What we have to do is understand what it is that this generation wants.”