The Wall Street Journal reports that right-wing cable network Newsmax, which is experiencing a slight ratings bump following the departure of Tucker Carlson from Fox News, is seeking to boost its bottom line by collecting carriage fees from cable and satellite providers:
Newsmax still trails the largest cable channels by a considerable margin. Sustaining and building on its gains will be challenging, especially as the industry faces challenges such as accelerated cable cord-cutting and an aging viewership base.
Furthermore, while Fox News, CNN and MSNBC get a lot of revenue from cable subscriptions—a slice of a household’s monthly bill—Newsmax has had a harder time getting some providers to pay those channel-carriage fees. Fox commanded $2.18 in monthly per-subscriber fees in 2022 while CNN brought in $1.16 and MSNBC had 37 cents, according to Kagan, an industry research firm.
Newsmax expects that all big providers will pay carriage fees in the next year, [Newsmax CEO Christopher] Ruddy said.
In January, Newsmax was temporarily dropped by its biggest carrier, DirecTV after negotiations broke down over the network’s demand for “significant fees,” but the two companies reached a deal a few months later. During the intervening period, Newsmax went to war with DirecTV, with the full backing of the Republican Party. At one point, Newsmax host Rob Finnerty suggested that viewers cancel their DirecTV subscriptions and directed them to contact Congress.
Cable and satellite providers should take the DirecTV/Newsmax saga as a preview of the attack campaign they may face during carriage fee negotiations. The network will deploy the full force of its radicalized audience to undermine negotiations and run smear campaigns when executives don’t get what they want.
Since DirecTV picked Newsmax back up, the network is just as extreme as ever. Some examples from just 2023:
- Host Greg Kelly criticized Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) for wearing a bandana rather than a hat while undergoing chemotherapy.
- Newsmax analyst Ric Grenell said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should be impeached for being “too emotional” in the wake of a mass shooting at Michigan State University.
- Newsmax guest Vernon Jones said, “There's only three races - [Mongoloid], Caucasoid, and Negroid.”
- Kelly suggested transgender people are “more of a threat” to society than white supremacists. He also stated that “transgender individuals armed with guns” are “the real threat to our democracy, to our way of life.”
- Host Eric Bolling claimed that schoolchildren are being “indoctrinated by actual devil worshippers” to build a “dark army.”
- Host Chris Plante said that to speak freely in the United States “you might have to have a gun,” adding, “We should just keep firearms out of the hands of registered Democrats.”
- Guest Michael Savage said he’s “willing to pick up arms” and said the Biden White House “is a terrorist administration tearing the country apart.”
- Kelly praised the smoke from Canadian wildfires, calling it a “beautiful, interesting aura.”
- Newsmax guest Sam Sorbo warned that teachers “want to have sex with your children,” adding that “schools are the system of slavery that the government has instituted.”
But ultimately, these providers should not take a stand against balloon payoffs to Newsmax out of charity. They should take it out of pure self-interest.
As the WSJ notes, there are countervailing forces at play that give cable companies a strong hand, notably including rising cord-cutting and an aging base of consumers. What’s worse in this case, Newsmax is asking carriers to pay for something that’s already available for free on streaming platforms like Roku and Pluto TV.
Cable and satellite providers should refuse to pay significantly more money for this: If they enter into negotiations with Newsmax, they’ll be committing to raising all of their customer's bills for hatred and misinformation that’s already provided to their customers for free. This will only risk accelerating cord-cutting.