May 12, 2014 4:53pm PT by Ashley Lee
TV Upfronts: Jennifer Lopez on NuvoTV, 'Idol' Lessons and Beating Diddy to Fuse
NuvoTV chief creative officer and part-owner Jennifer Lopez said she has picked up a key programming lesson from her judge's post on American Idol.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- it's all the common-sense things. American Idol is such an institution, and it is such a great show, at the end of the day, it's about the contestants and the focus should never be on anything else," Lopez told The Hollywood Reporter just before the network's upfronts presentation at New York City's Edison Ballroom on Monday evening. "You want to have a great panel and interesting judges, but it's about the kids. It's about focusing on the right things, and I think in television that's the most important thing: really understanding your audience and giving them what they want … it hasn't changed all that much. It is the show it has always been."
Still, her CCO role has been one of trial and error, she said, following last year's record launch for the network. "I like to do everything fast, but this is a long-term project, this is not something that's going to form in a day, but we hope year-to-year to keep moving in the right direction so that one day, we create the network we always dreamed of," she continued, listing behind-the-scenes shows and the Dexter deal as successes, and naming her kids as her eventual target demographic. "That, for somebody like me who is always on the run, is not the easiest thing, but it's challenging, and I do enjoy a challenge."
NuvoTV's return to the upfronts landscape comes just after the network inked a deal to acquire Fuse from Madison Square Garden for $226 million, plus a 15-percent stake in the expanded company -- a bid that beat P. Diddy's Revolt TV and positioned the rapper-producer "as a pawn in the situation" to drive up the price, he said while at NCTA earlier this month.
"Really? Did he said that?" Lopez, said laughing and asking her crew if that was true. "I wasn't on the inside of the negotiations, and maybe that's speculation or maybe it's true, I don't know. All I know is at the end of the day we got Fuse -- I don't know what to say!" She also noted that "the deal is not finished yet, and we can't talk about it yet, but at the end of the day when we're ready to talk about it, we've got tons of plans for that. Obviously, it's a wonderful new asset for us as a company and everyone was very excited by the fact that we could make that happen. We have a lot of plans that we can't wait to share."
"We also continue to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to our mission -- we're not shifting from our core Latino focus to a broader millennial target; we're staying with our original mission, focusing on a young, multicultural and, yes, millennial consumer," said CEO Michael Schwimmer in his opening comments that touched on purchasing Fuse, "a terrific cable network with more than 73 million homes, targeting a young and multicultural audience with music programming. Our deal is set to close in late June/early July, and give us more robust options to grow NuvoTV's business with synergies and cross-programming in marketing and distribution."
Senior vp ad sales Craig A. Geller later added, "Buying Fuse brings 73 million homes to us -- that's a headline in itself." Executive vp programming Bill Hilary noted that the company plans to "combine our resources to build an extensive and powerful new programming slate. We are committed to bring you new programming next year."
Highlights of the presentation included bookend live performances to plug the network's music and dance programming, with renewed seasons of A Step Away, The Collective Powered by VEVO and Love and Salsa. Of the dance-dating series, produced by Mario Lopez and hosted by his wife, Courtney Lopez, the latter joked, "We met through dancing and now we have two kids, so you know what kind of dancing we do … when he comes home, he knows who the real boss is."
NuvoTV highlighted its comedy programming, Stand Up & Deliver, and corresponding specials with quick sets by Jose Sarduy (who fell relatively flat with Desi Arnaz references) and Gina Brillon (who triggered laughs with accent-related asides of Bronx-centered jokes). After previewing docuseries and specials Tequila King, Livin' La Vida and Knockout, Mario Lopez: One on One, host and executive producer Mario Lopez took the stage: "A lot of networks out there talk about targeting a Latino audience and how important and valuable we really are, but no other network devotes all of its effort and all of its energy into providing programming that reflects the influence of Latinos in America. No other network has made its business their top priority to depict our true place in society."
Lopez closed the presentation with her remarks, following previews of Nu Point of View, and the special under its Nu America banner, Los Jets. "For me, the past year has been an invaluable growing and learning experience of proportions I cannot even begin to explain, or the likes of which I could have ever imagined when I took on this project," she said. "I have seen the power of this audience and community with my own brand … this network is necessary, our message is real and we are going nowhere."