Predictions of Fox’s diminution—however stirring they might be to liberals—must clear several obstacles before they can be taken seriously. Again and again, Fox has proved itself resourceful in replacing “star” show hosts like Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly with new versions of the same thing, such as Ingraham and Carlson, and carrying on after the departure of network auteur Roger Ailes. For another example, when Fox’s favorite presidential candidates have underperformed—such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in 2016—it’s been quick to dismount for a winning candidate like Trump and pretend that it always supported him. For another thing, viewership habits are extraordinarily hard to break. In many households, Fox burns like a winter hearth all day long, as background, diversion and even rapt viewing. Audiences have to search their cable dials for the alt-Fox networks or download the OTT apps. Even if they do in times of peak interest like the “election fraud” episode, how many will remain after the hubbub subsides? As Biden moves into the White House and the election fraud story turns to vapor, we can expect Fox to reclaim most of its defecting audience by going full-bore against Biden with its superior production values and much more talented news and opinion anchors.
The mismatch between the Newsmax and OANN pair and Fox cannot be exaggerated. As data published in the Financial Times shows, the contest isn’t really two Davids and one Goliath as much as it is between two dust motes and the burning sun. Fox is expected to reap $2.9 billion in revenue this year compared with Newsmax’s teensy $26 million and OANN’s only slightly less pitiful $48 million. More than half of those Fox revenues come from the affiliate fees that the cable operator pays to carry the channel, which means that if you’re a Democrat and your cable package includes Fox, you’re putting about $1.65 in Rupert’s piggy bank every month (96 cents for CNN and 29 cents for MSNBC). At Fox, they’ll probably say a prayer of thanks on Thursday as they carve the turkey, expressing joy that it is two underfunded, amateurish operations attacking them from the right instead of a repositioned-to-the-right CNN or MSNBC.