Originally created 04/10/03

Music network changes its name in search of young audience



NEW YORK -- The television network MuchMusic USA, seeking to distinguish itself in a market dominated by MTV and its related networks, will take the name Fuse.

It also has built a $12 million studio with windows open to the street across from Madison Square Garden, about a dozen blocks south of MTV's Times Square studios.

"There was really only one company's voice in popular music and culture, and we thought there should be another," said Josh Sapan, president of Fuse's parent company, Rainbow Media.

Fuse's executives noted that many music fans don't realize one company - Viacom - owns MTV, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic, BET and Country Music Television.

The changeover to Fuse, announced Tuesday, will take effect on May 19.

The name is a reference to the plugged-in world that the network's target audience of 12- to 34-year-old viewers inhabits, with beepers, cell phones and computers, said Marc Juris, Fuse president.

Among other programs, the new studio will host the show "IMX: Interactive Music Exchange," a music game where fans pick hits in a format that melds fantasy football and Wall Street.

Fuse will pride itself on interactivity, taking its cues from viewers on what music to play and even airing short videos made by audience members, Juris said. And one of the shows will be a parody of the VH1 series "Behind the Music."

David Cohn, general manager of MTV2, said Fuse is more of a direct competitor with his network than MTV. The music-centric MTV2 is in 48 million homes; the new Fuse will start with about 30 million.

He's not surprised that Fuse is opening a streetside studio nearby.

"They take their shots," Cohn said, "then they try to imitate."