Over the summer I had written about why Fox News was not in a good position as the television ecosystem shifted to streaming. (TL;DR: Fox is the only major cable or network news service not affiliated with a major Flix (multibillion dollar subscription streaming service), e.g., MSNBC has Peacock, CBS News has Paramount+, ABC News has Hulu. And so as cable audiences shrink, they do not seem to have a Plan B.)
But Fox News has another problem: a small right wing service called Newsmax that has done a much better job of distributing its TV programming online via the FASTs–free ad-supported streaming TV services.
As of this writing, Newsmax has a presence on Sling, Pluto, Xumo, Distro, Fubo, Haystack, Roku, Chromecast, AppleTV and Amazon Fire TV (the latter four via its own free app.)
This is in addition to carriage arrangements with most all the major services, including DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Charter, Cox, U-verse and Verizon FIOS.
Now granted Newsmax’s viewership is tiny compared to Fox’s and it’s not exactly a start-up–the website was launched in 1998 and the TV service in 2014.
But as viewers shift to streaming and go looking for their fix of free right wing news, they may find it to be a compelling option.
The Concession Factor
The events of the coming week may well determine how successful Newsmax becomes. For while Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch empire has chosen to declare Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election and to cast doubts on President Trump’s assertions that the elections were somehow fraudulent, Newsmax has gone in the other direction.
Their website carries a banner claiming that they are not yet calling the election, and their founder Chris Ruddy has been making the rounds of talk shows to explain their position while making clear his desire to partner with President Trump in any future media endeavors the Trumps may wish to engage in. This of course has resulted in a spate of free publicity for the site.
Whether this gives the network enough juice to gain any sort of real traction and steal disgruntled Trumpist viewers from Fox remains to be seen.
And while Trump fans should not have much trouble finding them, it’s also unclear whether their sizable presence on streaming sites will make any difference in winning over an audience that, like most news audiences, tends to skew older and less tech savvy.
The Fox Factor
Fox, at this point, still has a very limited presence on streaming, via Tubi (a popular FAST that Fox bought earlier this year) and a subscription superfan app that only a few hundred thousand people subscribe to.
That’s right now though.
Fox Corporation, which also owns Fox Broadcasting and Fox Sports, is a savvy organization, and if their cable revenue begins to shrink rapidly as audiences shift to streaming, there’s no reason to think they would not react quickly and establish a more substantial streaming presence, where their well known brand name would give them a decided advantage over Newsmax.
There’s also the potential of an actual Trump network of some sort, whether as an independent service or in partnership with Newsmax. Both options would pose a threat to Fox in terms of stealing audience, but success would depend, as always, on what sort of content play the competitors had and whether viewers felt comfortable switching between the various conservative media options, the way many viewers on the other end of the political spectrum switch between MSNBC and CNN, depending what’s on.
Streaming Is Not A Trend
One thing I do feel fairly certain about is that the end of the cable news era is near. Not that the actual cable news networks themselves are going anywhere–if anything, a shift to streaming will likely leave them in a better position as viewers will find it tougher to flit from one to the other–but rather the domination of cable overall as viewers quickly realize that streaming offers them both more and better programming for less money than cable, along with plenty of linear options via the FASTs.
Sports, one of the two types of programming that keeps viewers tied to cable, is still a ways off from being easily accessible on streaming (all those rights deals, especially around the regional sports networks (RSNs).
News, OTOH, is much more widely available, both via the various cable and network news services and via new startups like Cheddar and Newsy, and via smaller, more partisan services like Newsmax.
Local news is still an issue however, though as many affiliate stations don’t have any sort of streaming presence. While local news aggregator services like Haystack, and networks bringing their O&Os (owned and operated broadcast stations) onto services like Tubi and CBSN are helping to bridge the gap, local still has a long way to go.