President Trump’s fans who don’t think Fox News is right-wing enough have another option on cable and satellite: Newsmax TV.
And something dramatic has happened in the past week: A big audience has sought out Newsmax TV for the first time.
Those two facts are connected. Some Trump loyalists are raging against Fox and changing the channel to Newsmax instead. While Newsmax is still much smaller than Fox, this is the most robust right-wing TV challenge to Fox that I have ever seen.
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.
>> Also of note: Trump is sharing videos from Newsmax’s coverage, and the Trump campaign is providing guests to the channel…
Newsmax’s PR campaign
Over the weekend Newsmax pointedly said it had not called the race — which was a meaningless claim since the channel doesn’t have a decision desk. But the channel’s hosts keep repeating this claim anyway. The startup channel is tapping into a real vein of rage on the right. If Fox is merely dabbling in election denialism, Newsmax is doubling down on it. Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller was explicit on Kelly’s show Wednesday night: “We gotta stop Joe Biden from becoming the next president.”
My two cents: Fox News still has a near-monopoly position. Its ratings are not noticeably suffering as a result of Newsmax’s ratings spike. While Newsmax averaged 437,000 viewers on Tuesday, Fox averaged 1.86 million. But there has clearly been a disruption in the pro-Trump TV universe. Newsmax has capitalized. Will the ratings bump last?
Supply and demand
Sinister right-wing storylines
Herman, a morning host in Seattle, knew to compliment his listeners just like Limbaugh does. “You’re an expert at pattern recognition,” he said repeatedly, urging them to “look at the patterns.” His overarching message was that the anecdotes and insinuations swirling throughout right-wing social media are a pattern: “There was fraud.” Listeners called in with concerns and conspiracy theories. Every segment reinforced their fears. One minute Herman said dead people were allowed to vote; the next minute he said media outlets (including CNN) were “colluding” with Biden; the next minute he said GOP leaders weren’t fighting back hard enough. And he said he fears unrest or worse: “If this doesn’t go through the full legal process, I’m afraid this country will come apart.” If you’re only watching mainstream news, you’re missing these sinister right-wing storylines…
The first few stages of grief
Trump still has some ratings power
Here is a new sign that he still has sway among his Fox base. Lately Tucker Carlson at 8pm has been beating Sean Hannity at 9pm, but on Tuesday Trump tweeted that “ballot Corruption will be exposed tonight at 9:00pmE on @SeanHannity.” Look at the resulting ratings spike: Carlson had 903,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo, Hannity jumped up to 1.35 million, and Laura Ingraham had 904,000. Trump’s tweet seemed to make a big difference…