[To read Part II — Newsmax II: “Spicer & Co” — CLICK HERE.]
When Fox News launched in 1996, it was the lone conservative voice in a TV news landscape dominated by leftwing media outlets. Fox News combined traditional news reporting with hard-hitting primetime opinion shows that had a decidedly conservative bent. It found its core audience, climbed in the ratings and surpassed its leading cable news rivals on the Left, CNN and MSNBC.
Over the years, however, Fox News’s focus has changed. While still featuring its primetime conservative opinion hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, the network is increasingly presenting leftward leaning perspectives that have blurred its original mission. Fox News viewers hear regularly from liberal anchors Juan Williams and Chris Wallace. They also hear on a daily basis from Democrat operatives who are Fox News contributors such as former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, Mary Ann Marsh, Jessica Tarlov, Marie Harf and “progressive” radio talk show host Leslie Marshall. Fox News has also given respectful platforms to leftists Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Hahn and many similarly inclined others – a courtesy that is not reciprocated by leftist cable shows.
This past Super Tuesday, Fox News viewers were treated to an on-air tantrum by Donna Brazile. It was prompted by comments made earlier in the day by the Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel regarding the potential rigging of the Democrat presidential nomination process against Bernie Sanders. Brazile accused Chairwoman McDaniel of using “Russian talking points to sow division among Americans.” She then snarled, “So Ronna, go to hell!” She got a “fist bump” from Juan Williams for her boorish partisan behavior. Brazile was formerly a CNN contributor, who left that network after it was learned that she had shared questions for CNN-sponsored candidate events in advance with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 primary campaign against Sanders. Fox News’s subsequent decision to hire Bazile is baffling enough. Even more baffling is Fox News gave Brazile a pass for her inexcusable antics on Super Tuesday. Apparently, being a mendacious and insulting leftist means never having to say your sorry now on Fox.
Fox News is clearly not up to the task of confronting alone the constant bombardment of leftist propaganda that viewers are exposed to on CNN, MSNBC and the three major broadcast networks. Fortunately, despite the significant hurdles in starting a new cable news network that can compete with the well-established incumbents, Newsmax TV and One America News Network (OANN) have emerged to present conservative points of view on cable television.
Newsmax TV was created by journalist-entrepreneur Chris Ruddy, one of the unsung heroes of the conservative movement. Newsmax TV has been operating much longer than OANN to date. It has recently surpassed Bloomberg Television in total household reach, household coverage area rating, and average audience. “There is a growing disenchantment with Fox News and we are definitely seeing a rise in viewership with Newsmax,” Ruddy, who is its CEO, said.
Indeed, Newsmax TV can be accessed via all major cable and other multichannel video programming distributors, as well as via over-the-top (OTT) devices. The distributors include FiOS (Ch. 615 HD or 115 SD), Spectrum (channels vary by state), Cox (channels vary by state), Optimum (Ch. 102), Direct TV (Ch. 349), Dish (Ch. 216), Xfinity (Ch. 1115), and many others.
Newsmax TV was launched by Ruddy on June 16, 2014. It is part of the multiplatform news media organization known as Newsmax Media, which was founded by Ruddy and includes the prominent news website Newsmax.com and a print magazine also called Newsmax. The TV network was “a natural progression from our digital media operations,” Ruddy said during a 2017 interview with Forbes. Newsmax is a private company and doesn’t disclose revenues, but an industry expert suggests it will do revenues this year in excess of $80 million.
Ironically, at the time of his TV network’s launching, Ruddy saw an opportunity to appeal to conservative viewers who felt that Fox News had turned too far to the right. “Our goal is to be a little more boomer-oriented, more information-based rather than being vituperative and polarizing,” Ruddy said back then. “If we take 10 to 15 percent of the Fox audience, and they are making $1 billion a year, then we are going to be hugely profitable,” he added.
Ruddy’s philosophy, in his words, was to build his TV network over time rather than all at once. “Let people see us build it, let them see our mistakes and how we fix them and how we grow,” he said on Newsmax TV’s “The Chris Salcedo Show” earlier this year. Ruddy remarked that his network was “filling a niche” on cable TV, noting how the “media has always tended to be liberal.”
Ruddy said that Newsmax was appealing to the “heartland audience in America.” While acknowledging that “Newsmax is in the field where Fox News is,” Ruddy explained that “I just think we need more conservative voices, not less. We think Fox is great. Actually, I don’t have a problem with Fox. I think Fox is changing. I think it’s a lot different than it was 10 years ago.” Ruddy added that “Newsmax is here to stay, and we’re growing and we love the fact that our audience is tuning in.” The statistics bear him out.
In the nearly six years since its launch, Newsmax TV has taken off. It is now accessible by over 70 million households. Newsmax TV is reaching about 8 million people a month in viewership. Its overall reach has risen close to 200 percent since August of 2019, according to ComScore data. Newsmax TV’s ad revenue has doubled over the last year.
Newsmax TV has continued to enhance its programming, most recently by adding former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer to its roster of hosts. His new show, “Spicer & Co,” began airing on March 3, 2020. “Sean has been on the inside of how decisions are made in a way so few have,” Ruddy said. “He was a success as White House press secretary because he connected to ordinary Americans.”
Following Spicer’s show at 6pm ET on weekdays is the nightly news show, “Greg Kelly Reports.” Kelly was previously a journalist at Fox News for several years, including spending two years as its White House correspondent. Newsmax TV also features more diversified programming than Fox News, a differentiator that Ruddy emphasized during my own recent discussion with him. For example, “Conversations with Nancy Brinker” is hosted by the founder of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer organization. Ms. Brinker has interviewed a variety of influential personalities in and out of politics.
Ruddy believes that Newsmax TV is well positioned to attract viewers who may have become tired of the one-trick ponies on CNN and MSNBC but have not yet gravitated to Fox News where the median age of viewers is 65. The average age of Newsmax viewers is 53.
As a writer for The Atlantic pointed out several years ago, “Fox News’s present-day strength is its future weakness: Its success is concentrated among men well into their retirement.” He added that “it’s not altogether clear from current viewing patterns that today’s middle-aged conservatives are destined to become tomorrow’s Fox News devotees.” Such middle-aged conservatives now have choices on cable TV more suitable to their tastes than Fox News. Newsmax TV is currently their leading alternative.