Sources have been whispering to reporters for more than a week about Trump wanting to build a competitor to Fox after leaving office. This story ran on the morning of Election Day, *before* Fox committed the Ultimate Betrayal by calling Arizona for Joe Biden that evening. My guess is that the chatter about a Trump News outlet ever since has been mostly a matter of confidants trying to talk him into relinquishing power before things get ugly. “W-w-w-wouldn’t it be nice to leave all this behind and have your own media outlet, sir? You could take your hurt feelings over the election out on Fox for making its programming only 97 percent pro-Trump instead of the full 100.”
As I write this, the president is retweeting dozens of people complaining about Fox and promising a switch to Newsmax. Which I suppose represents progress relative to him tweeting about the election having been stolen.
No Doubt. fox news ran 24/7 in our home for the past 7 yrs. It has not been on the past 7 Days straight. @ News Max Is Where We Go All!!! FOX IS ALL ABOUT CELEBRITY LIKE JOURNALISM!!! AND EVERYONE HAS A BOOK. SMH
— B Boobers (@BoobersB) November 8, 2020
Like it or not Fox News tried to persuade an election. Wether they did or not I don’t know but the intent was definitely there. I’ll never watch the channel again.
— GiveHim6 (@d_nowell) November 8, 2020
I’ve been a loyal FOX viewer for many years, until now. Tucker, Hannity and Laura should leave while they can. FOX is pandering to left now and it’s ovvious.
— Mike Stout (@Michael_Stout) November 8, 2020
Newsmax shouldn’t get too excited. According to Axios, Trump really does have plans for his own venture:
President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios…
“He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it,” said a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions…
Trump is considering a digital media channel that would stream online, which would be cheaper and quicker to start.
Trump’s digital offering would likely charge a monthly fee to MAGA fans. Many are Fox News viewers, and he’d aim to replace the network — and the $5.99-a-month Fox Nation streaming service, which has an 85% conversion rate from free trials to paid subscribers — as their top destination.
Launching on cable television would be expensive, launching online much less so. And Axios notes that an online venture could leverage the gigantic email list that Trump’s campaign harvested from its donors. If you can’t cope with a reality in which Joe Biden is actually the duly elected president — a reality already acknowledged by Fox News — well, good news. Soon you won’t need to. Trump TV will be there to get you through the day.
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, a Trump network is destined to be nasty, conspiratorial, even Orwellian in some of its programming, like its founder. It will accelerate the country’s ongoing civic deterioration and not just on its own airwaves. (Or broadband, I guess I should say.) Fox will inevitably feel itself dragged towards nastier, more conspiratorial content too to try to keep pace and not hemorrhage viewers. On Trump TV, a Trump-backed candidate will never fairly lose an election to a Democrat. Fox will need to reckon with that.
On the other hand, this is so richly deserved.
Donald Trump’s going to destroy Fox as a competitor.
Donald Trump’s going to run for President in 2024 crowding out the ambitions of Nikki, Marco, Cotton, et al.
Trumps kids are trying to take over the RNC.
Hope everyone is happy with their choices.
— Sarah Longwell (@SarahLongwell25) November 12, 2020
I made the same point a few days ago about how enjoyable it is to watch the 2024 hopefuls in the Senate, who toadied to Trump in hopes of ingratiating themselves with his coalition, suddenly find that the personality cult they’ve enabled may lock them out of what they truly want. The Cruzes, Hawleys, and Cottons of the world are facing the prospect of not being able to run for president in the next cycle after all, forced to bend the knee once again to Trump. There’s always 2028 — but who knows how successful Trump TV might end up being in promoting Donald Trump Jr or Tucker Carlson to the Republican base, making one of them a prohibitive frontrunner in future cycles?
They all deserve this, just like Fox deserves to be swallowed up by Trump’s media venture. Why, there’s an even a song about it.
Of course, what people deserve and what’s likely to happen are two different things:
Certainly some success with niche content, sports etc, but in terms of politically-oriented programming I can only think of cautionary tales. pic.twitter.com/Ogzzq2xszw
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) November 12, 2020
Fox isn’t going bankrupt anytime soon even if Trump follows through on a digital programming network. But an ex-president at the center of an enormous personality cult should have an unusually good chance of making a digital platform viable, creating real competition for mainstream behemoths like FNC. We may not see a huge stampede away from Fox but a dynamic where populist righties are watching it and Trump’s network every day and making comparisons. Which gets back to my point about Fox eventually being dragged towards taking a Trumpier tone in its own coverage.
Although I wouldn’t rule out a stampede either:
Over the summer, when I started to keep an eye on Newsmax’s Nielsen ratings, the channel was averaging about 25,000 viewers at any given time — a tiny number by any TV news standard. As the election was approaching, the audience ticked up, but it was still just a fly on the Fox elephant’s back. In the final week of October, Newsmax was averaging just 65,000 viewers at any given time.
Then came the election. Newsmax averaged 182,000 viewers during the election week that ended on Sunday. And it is growing even more this week. On Monday the channel averaged 347,000 viewers. On Tuesday, 437,000 viewers. Evening shows like “Spicer & Co” and “Greg Kelly Reports” are reaching 700,000 and 800,000 viewers. These shows struggled to hit 100,000 before the election! Something has changed.
Fox lost viewers because it called the election for Biden last weekend and called Arizona for Biden on election night. Which, by the way, turned out to be correct:
Decision Desk HQ Projects Biden (D) Has Won The State Of AZ And Its 11 Electoral Votes
Race Called At 10:29 PM EST
All Results: https://t.co/7CxbLsQ3gY
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) November 12, 2020
It took nine days for Decision Desk to feel confident about the outcome in AZ, which strongly suggests that Fox’s election-night call really was reckless. But if you’re a bottom-line type of person, there’s the bottom line from DDHQ. Biden won Arizona. Fox was right.
Even so, here’s Trump’s latest tweet as of this morning:
.@FoxNews daytime ratings have completely collapsed. Weekend daytime even WORSE. Very sad to watch this happen, but they forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2020
I’m not sure what he means by the “difference” between the 2016 and 2020 elections since he wants the country to believe that he won both and actually got many more votes this time. (He did, in fact, get many more votes this time.) But it’s nonetheless ah-may-zing to see his quest for election scapegoats lead him to knocking the biggest Trump propaganda arm in American media for having failed him somehow. Loyalty isn’t enough; absolute loyalty is what’s demanded, and Fox failed to show that loyalty by … having Democrats on as guests? Correctly projecting Biden would win Arizona? Not giving the “Golden Goose” enough praise and airtime even though Fox’s mega-rated primetime line-up might as well work at the White House in terms of their relentless messaging on his behalf? I don’t know. But he’ll be laying his golden eggs somewhere else soon, it seems.