As Trump is on the verge of leaving office, his most ardent followers appear ready to jump ship for explicitly pro-Trump outlets.
Late on November 3, as votes were still being counted, the Fox News Decision Desk broke ranks with the other major news networks and declared President-elect Joe Biden the winner of Arizona.
The Associated Press called Arizona just a couple of hours after Fox News, but most other networks waited nearly a week before reporting that Biden had indeed turned the reliably Republican state blue. But while the end results appear to validate Fox’s early call, the damage to Fox among Republicans has already been done.
President Donald Trump’s supporters, the news network’s most reliable audience, were furious that Fox had called Arizona for Biden, even claiming that the premature call suppressed the Trump vote in other states. Conservative radio host Todd Starnes demanded to know the political affiliation of the person in charge of the decision desk.
This is hardly the first time Fox News has angered Trump’s supporters, or even the president himself. While Fox News remains the ratings champion for cable news, conservatives have grown increasingly disillusioned with the Rupert Murdoch-owned network. Now, as Trump is on the verge of leaving office, his most ardent followers appear ready to jump ship for explicitly pro-Trump outlets.
OAN is coming for Fox’s audience
No upstart network has made a bigger name for itself in the conservative news media world than One American News Network (OAN. Alternatively, OANN). In April, TMS wrote of the channel, “OAN is more right-wing than Fox News and has been called President Donald Trump’s favorite news network.”
Launched in 2013 as both a companion and competitor to Fox News, OAN built its profile during Trump’s presidency. Trump has tagged the network on Twitter dozens of times, often repeating stories the network has reported.
One of the main reasons the network has grown is the presence of Chanel Rion in the White House briefing room. Rion is a staunch supporter of Trump who has used her questions in the briefing room as a pretext for criticizing other journalists in the room. In August, Trump granted Rion a one-on-one interview in which she praised the president to his face and again attacked other news outlets.
The president has previously urged his Twitter followers to dump Fox News and switch to OAN. On August 16, referencing Fox’s one-time slogan, he tweeted, “@FoxNews is not watchable during weekend afternoons. It is worse than Fake News @CNN. I strongly suggest turning your dial to @OANN. They do a really “Fair & Balanced” job!”
Newsmax and Parler
While OAN may be the most high-profile of the new conservative news agencies, it is not alone. Newsmax is another conservative media outlet hoping to take advantage of conservative dissatisfaction with Fox. Unlike OAN, though, Newsmax isn’t new to the scene: it was launched online in 1998 as Newsmax by Chris Ruddy, a “Trump confidant” from New York City.
Previously only an online portal, Newsmax TV launched in 2014 and was one of the first cable news networks to give positive news coverage to Trump’s fledgling presidential campaign in 2015. Newsmax has consistently pushed pro-Trump narratives and ever since Election Day has been reporting the baseless claim that the Democrats stole the 2020 election.
In terms of ratings, Newsmax is no competition for Fox, but as CNN reported, the network’s election week coverage brought it a major boost. Newsmax had been averaging around 65,000 viewers at the end of October, but the first week of November found the network averaging 182,000 viewers, including a remarkable 700,000 to 800,000 viewers for its evening broadcasts.
Also experiencing growth after the election is the social media platform Parler. In recent months, conservative Twitter users, including Republican politicians and Fox News hosts, have been inviting their followers to join them on this new platform.
Parler was created as an alternative to established social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which have been accused of censoring conservatives. While Parler’s unfiltered platform is its main appeal, a rise in death threats aimed at liberals and Democrats has appeared on the platform in the wake of Biden’s defeat of Trump.
Parler claims its membership jumped from 4.5 million to 8 million in the week following the election. Those numbers are still only a fraction of Twitter’s total membership, but both Newsmax and Parler’s recent growth suggests that conservatives – specifically, Trump’s loyal supporters – are looking for media outlets with like-minded content.
It also indicates that Trump has an audience waiting for his next move.
On November 12, Axios reported, “President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network.” Trump has made no secret of his disagreements with the stalwart conservative news network, frequently tweeting his annoyance with Fox when it has, on occasion, been critical of him.
Instead of attempting to create a cable news network to directly compete with Fox, though, Axios reports the president’s plan is to create a paid subscription streaming media empire. Details on what type of programming would appear on this network are unknown, but with the Trump campaign’s extensive list of phone numbers and email addresses, outreach would be easy.
Speculation that Trump has his sights set on running his own conservative media empire isn’t new. In 2016, when consensus in the mainstream media was that Trump was heading toward defeat, there was speculation that his endgame was converting his loyal political supporters into an audience for his own cable television network.
If that really had been the goal, it was at least temporarily put on the back burner when Trump beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to win the White House.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at [email protected]