Our current president’s attempt to remove his legions of supporters from his historically loyal mouthpiece raises a central question about the axis of media politicians. Who has the real power here? The politician? The audience? The network? And if the network, which one? The answers came shortly after the collapse of Trump’s legal ploy to overthrow the election.
Today, with the presidential elections virtually officially granted, the Newsmax and OANN uprising has stalled. But both networks had caused a sensation in Trump country by reliably producing news that matched the priorities of Trump supporters and left their political prejudices untouched. Reject the authority of the news, commanded Trump and accept mine. And Newsmax and OANN bowed to an enthusiasm that not even Fox in its worst moments could ever muster. Even after Michigan and Pennsylvania confirmed the Biden victory and Trump allowed the GSA to fund the Biden transition, Newsmax and OANN still played up the electoral fraud angle and their audience’s passions with Foxier as Fox, pro-Trump kindling, stoked. “Bypass the big media,” as an on-air promo by Newsmax instructs viewers to watch not only CNN but Fox too.
Both channels have historically had low viewership, but Newsmax has changed that. A top Newsmax show, usually hovering around the 58,000 audience mark, recently attracted one recording 1.1 million viewers, only a few million shy away from a high-profile Fox show that runs in the same time window. The idea that Fox could be outflanked on the tougher right was backed by one recently Wall Street Journal report that a Trump-friendly private equity firm turned to Newsmax to buy or invest in them. Suddenly, the prospect seemed possible that additional Trumpie news channels could compete with Fox and replace it with conservative primacy.
Predictions of Fox’s decline – exciting as they may be to liberals – have to remove a number of obstacles before they can be taken seriously. Time and again, Fox has proven resourceful, replacing “star” show hosts like Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly with new versions of the same thing as Ingraham and Carlson, and moving on after the departure of network writer Roger Ailes. For example, when Fox’s favorite presidential candidates – like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in 2016 – underperformed, he was quickly relegated to a victorious candidate like Trump, pretending to always support him. On the other hand, viewing habits are extremely difficult to break. In many households, Fox burns like a winter stove all day long, as a backdrop, a distraction, and even a rapturous contemplation. The audience must search their cable dials for or download the Alt Fox networks OTT Apps. Even if this is the case during times of prime concern like the Election Fraud episode, how many will be left after the hustle and bustle subside? If Biden moves into the White House and the election fraud story turns to steam, we can assume that Fox will recapture most of its defected audience by beating Biden with its superior production values and much more talented news and opinion anchors.
The mismatch between the Newsmax and OANN couple and Fox cannot be overstated. As data released by doing Financial Times shows that the competition is not really two Davids and one Goliath, but between two dust motifs and the burning sun. Fox is projected to have $ 2.9 billion in revenue this year, compared to Newsmax’s $ 26 million and OANN’s slightly less pathetic $ 48 million. More than half of that Fox revenue comes from the affiliate fees that the cable operator pays to broadcast the channel. So if you’re a Democrat and your cable package has Fox, that’s what you’re doing $ 1.65 each month in Rupert’s piggy bank (96 cents for CNN and 29 cents for MSNBC). At Fox, they’ll likely say a prayer of thanks on Thursday as they carve the turkey, and express their delight that these are two underfunded, amateurish operations attacking them from the right rather than a CNN or right repositioned MSNBC.
What about the argument that one of the Alt Fox networks could become competitive by adding Trump to the program plan? Good luck. Current TV supporters, and then Al Jazeera America, have poured millions into cables to build functioning, quasi-liberal networks and to compete directly with established companies CNN and MSNBC. They failed. I suppose you could pay Trump $ 100 million a year to put on a weekday show to improve ratings, but you can’t network around a single tent pole. In addition, the Trump audience is already involved in the viewership of Newsmax and OANN. No doubt Trump could make a great tractor pull for a show given the right producers, but will his words convey the same value as those spoken at his rallies or from the White House? But even a successful Trump show would leave competitors miles behind Fox. Plus, the man is 74 years old, which makes him an old horse that any network can bet on, let alone ride. On the upside, nearly 74 million voted for him, which shows the Trump audience’s upside potential. After all, he was better at hosting a television show than a president. (Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy says he won’t turn his network into Trump TV, but is ready to consider a weekly Trump show.)
Newsmax and OANN may have temporarily outperformed Fox by bettering Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him for days after Fox largely abandoned that line. But what special ingredient do they have now? The downside to a news organization that accepts disinformation like the stolen election story is that reality has a way to intervene and eventually lift it. The easiest way is to develop or apply another disinformation scramble, a technique Fox has already perfected. You may remember the heavy breathing Fox gave Benghazi Scandal that Seth Rich Murder conspiracy, Obama Obstetrics, and the Hydroxychloroquine Hype, to name a few of its big scoops, though pfft. If Newsmax and OANN believe they can move into the Murdoch Empire by promoting greater crackpot stories than Fox, they can expect a surprise. Fox is the master of this type of reporting and, unlike Newsmax and OANN, knows when to discard a news corner and find a new one.
Newsmax and OANN have one for you. Misinformation disguised as news clogs the internet and cable choice not so much because producers create it, but because consumers demand it: it’s a demand-side problem, not a supply-side problem. As long as viewers seek confirmation of every utterance from a prolific liar like Donald Trump, there’s a guaranteed spot for outfits like Newsmax and OANN. But just as sure, if Fox doesn’t turn its back on this game, it will contest right-wing media in the years to come.
Submit crackpot theories to [email protected]. My Email notifications look at OANN. My Twitter Feed Views Newsmax in the app. My RSS feed, which killed his TV in a previous column, forego the technology.