So says CNN, so take it with a grain of salt. Obviously a brawl between the top conservative network and a fringier populist alternative is a narrative that Fox’s competitors are eager to encourage. Fox will deny the claim for the same reason. Never, ever would they publicly admit to feeling any anxiety about another right-wing outlet.

Producers on some Fox programs have been told to monitor Newsmax’s guest bookings and throw some sand in Newsmax’s gears by encouraging guests who appear on both channels to stop saying yes to the upstart.

According to Fox sources, producers were told to avoid some regular guests if they kept showing up on Newsmax after being encouraged to stop. Management’s goal: to remind guests who’s boss in the right-wing media world…

When asked about the apparent booking drama between Fox and Newsmax, Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, said Fox is committing an “anti-competitive violation” by trying to block guests. Two of the Fox sources shrugged at that suggestion. “Welcome to the big leagues,” one said.

That’s from Brian Stelter, who claims that when he spoke to sources at Fox earlier this year they cracked jokes about Newsmax. Now they’re checking daily ratings to see how many more viewers might have migrated over to Greg Kelly’s show in order to find a safe space in which the outcome of the election remains in doubt. (“Our audience has absolutely been radicalized,” said one Fox staffer to Stelter.) I wrote about Newsmax’s — and CNN’s and MSNBC’s — ratings gains at Fox’s expense last week, but it’s showing up in online metrics too:

According to data from analytics platform Social Blade, which tracks the daily shifts of profiles, “likes” on the Newsmax Facebook page have spiked by over 1.4 million in the past 30 days, with a daily average rise of 47,241. On Saturday, when the channel was talked about by Trump, its Facebook page attracted over 30,000 new likes.

The pattern was echoed on Twitter, where its account gained 563,735 new followers in the past 30 days, a daily average of 18,791. It amassed 27,105 new fans Saturday.

On YouTube, Newsmax brought in 1.18 million new subscribers over the past 30 days, a daily average rise of nearly 40,000. It gained 20,000 new subscribers on Saturday. Video views on the platform rose by 108 million in the past 30 days, according to Social Blade.

Allegedly Fox has taken to trying to appease viewers by re-airing bits from Tucker Carlson’s show during the day, to soothe viewers who might otherwise change the channel if they have to watch so much as one more Fox reporter call Biden the president-elect. Meanwhile, Trump continues to take potshots at Fox…

…while also undermining those potshots by giving special privileges to Fox networks, like when he granted Maria Bartiromo an extended interview yesterday morning. If he wants to punish FNC for whatever it did to betray him, why didn’t he grant that interview to Kelly instead?

With respect to the Newsmax boomlet, tell me how it ends. The “Trump was cheated” fantasy will keep them rolling for the next seven weeks until Biden is sworn in, but at that point their advantage over Fox will end. Both networks will shift full-time to adversarial programming aimed at the new administration and Fox has far more money, personnel, and high-end talent than Newsmax does. Maybe Kelly can hang in there at 7 p.m. against Martha MacCallum, giving Fox viewers a dose of polemics early in the evening at an hour when Fox is trying to give them news, but who’s sticking with Newsmax during primetime when Tucker, Hannity, and Ingraham will be waging all-out war on Biden with A-list guests over on FNC?

Even if Fox isn’t high-octane enough for you, why isn’t Fox Business the preferred “radical” alternative for Fox viewers over Newsmax? Lou Dobbs has interviewed Sidney Powell with every bit as much credulity as a Newsmax host like Kelly could muster. Maria Bartiromo nowadays sounds like an especially febrile Trump campaign spokesman more so than a cable news host. What sort of itch is Newmax scratching that they aren’t?

Maybe Fox should bite the bullet and do what corporations tend to do when threatened by a hungry young competitor and either buy Newsmax itself or fart out its own knock-off version. They could approach their problem the way a distillery would, producing a new label to meet the demand from consumers seeking something more potent than the usual fare. Fox News will remain the main product, the 40-percent ABV version of conservative news. But for viewers who want to get f***ed up on populism, they could start airing “Fox Black Label” or whatever, the 60-percent ABV alternative in which the outcome of the 2020 election is, and shall forever remain, in doubt.

Fox’s problem isn’t that their opinion hosts aren’t as punchy as Newsmax’s. They are. Their problem is that they have a respected news bureau staffed by credible reporters and continue to give those reporters airtime to say things that puncture the fantasies about a stolen election. I’ll leave you with this segment from Eric Shawn, who’s debunked allegations of cheating more doggedly than any other journalist on the network. Trump must have flipped his lid when he saw this.

Update: Indeed, Fox is denying Stelter’s report: “A Fox spokesperson said there was no directive about guest bookings.”