A recent report from S&P Global highlights the changing landscape for contract negotiations between cable companies and networks that could result in streaming platforms being offered to subscribers as a part of a traditional TV bundle. Carriers should beware when negotiating with Fox Corp., which may attempt to force cable subscribers to prop up its failing and bigoted streaming platform Fox Nation.
In September, Disney reached a carriage agreement with Charter Communications that included the streaming services Disney+ and ESPN+ as a bundle option for Charter customers. The deal followed a days-long blackout period in which Charter subscribers lost access to Disney properties like ESPN after negotiations broke down between the two sides. In the final agreement, Charter won the option to offer its customers a subscription to Disney’s streaming platform as a bulwark against the cord-cutting trend that has significantly hurt the cable industry in recent years.
Offering a cable bundle with a streaming option has opened up a new frontier for the industry, which has until now been an entirely separate market where carriers have been excluded. This might transform each side’s leverage in negotiations going forward, as more carriers will likely seek access to the streaming market. As Scott Robson of S&P Global reported recently, this could also result in them dropping smaller auxiliary networks, as with the Disney-Charter deal. It’s a critical period of transformation for the entire cable and streaming industries — as negotiations continue, creative new deals will be instructive as to what the landscape will look like.
Robson’s report previewed that Fox Nation could be on the table for carriage negotiations going forward, as was the case with Disney+ and ESPN+. (Indeed, Fox Nation now has a sign-in page for customers who subscribed to the platform via DirectTV, YouTube TV, Fubo, Xfinity, and Cox Cable.) He notes that Fox Corp. CFO Steven Tomsic said in February 2022 that “70% of the company’s carriage deals will be up for renewal during fiscal years 2023 and 2024.” Robson predicts that Fox may have a contract up with Charter “in the coming months” based on the timing of previous negotiations. (Historically, Fox has used its sports offering as a weapon in negotiations in order to inflate fees paid by providers, raising consumers’ cable bills.)
Fox Nation’s entertainment offerings pale in comparison to those of its competitors at Disney, Paramount, and Comcast. It is home to a library of low-quality zombie entertainment content — with properties such as Duck Dynasty and Cops, as well as original content like Castles USA, which features Fox News host Jeanine Pirro touring “the rich history of the most beautiful Castles in the United States.” Some Fox News programming is also posted to Fox Nation after it airs on the network, a redundancy for most cable subscribers.
There is no evidence of demand for these hodgepodge offerings from Fox’s streaming service.
If cable companies were to offer this platform as part of a bundle, they’d be propping up an apparently failing product: Though Fox executives have not shared subscription numbers, the streaming service has cut staff after the company’s historic $787.5 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems in April. One insider told The Daily Beast, “Fox Nation is basically over without” former prime-time star Tucker Carlson, who was fired after the Dominion settlement. “They’re not shutting it down, and probably never will, but they’re really cutting it back.”
Fox Nation is also a cesspool of toxic bigotry masquerading as “lifestyle” content. The streaming platform was at one point the main outlet for Carlson’s expanded role as the face of Fox and still hosts his entire catalog of extreme content. (Media Matters has previously reported on Carlson himself slamming the service behind the scenes in leaked footage.) It would be impossible to include all of Carlson's offensive and extreme commentary on Fox Nation, but the platform’s extremism extends far beyond just Carlson’s words.
Fox Nation launched Carlson’s Patriot Purge, a fascist propaganda reel that whitewashed the legacy of the January 6 insurrection. In the piece, Carlson described the riot as a “setup.” The pseudo-documentary was written by Scooter Downey, who previously directed several documentaries for white nationalists. Infowars’ Alex Jones praised Carlson’s work. [Media Matters, 11/2/21, 11/4/21, 11/12/21, 11/17/21]
On Fox Nation, Chaya Raichik of the anti-LGBTQ hate account “Libs of TikTok” called the LGBTQ+ community a “cult” that is “extremely poisonous.” She later added, “They’re just evil people, and they’re out to groom kids. They’re recruiting.” [Twitter/X, 12/27/22]
On Carlson’s Fox Nation show, a Bitcoin hustler with ties to Russian and Iranian state media praised El Salvador’s authoritarian turn as a “beacon” of “hope.” [Media Matters, 12/1/22]
Fox Nation offered QAnon enthusiastic Roseanne Barr a comedy special. [Media Matters, 9/21/22]
Another “documentary” in the Tucker Carlson Originals series portrayed Jewish billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros as a puppet master in control of world finance and media. [Media Matters, 1/26/22]
While a host for Fox Nation, Lara Logan shared conspiracy theories on right-wing social media platform Gettr citing “Putin’s purge of the Rothschild money changers” and claiming Jewish people masterminded the U.S. Civil War. In the following week, Logan shared another antisemitic myth attributing the theory of evolution to a plot by the Rothschilds. [Media Matters, 3/28/22]
On Fox Nation’s The Todd Starnes Show, network host Jeanine Pirro pushed the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. [Fox Nation, The Todd Starnes Show, 8/29/19]
In 2020, Fox Nation chose conspiracy theorist and QAnon supporter Isaiah Washington as a host. [Media Matters, 7/17/20]
On Fox Nation, The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak made a vile attack on Greta Thunberg, saying she only cares about climate change “because she has autism.” [Fox Nation, Tucker Carlson Today, 3/11/22]
Cable and satellite providers should continue to explore flexible options for their customers as the entertainment and cable news industry adapts to rapidly changing market conditions. But reports indicate there is no demand for Fox Nation’s toxic bigotry and misinformation.
For more information on Media Matters’ initiative to prevent Fox News from raising your cable bill, click here.