- Fox Nation, Fox News’ new opinion streaming service, will be available Tuesday.
- The service features Fox News’ most well-known and controversial figures, like Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren.
- Fox News says that early purchases suggest a younger demographic could be served by the platform.
- Professor Reece Peck says that the plan could end up encouraging cord cutting.
Fox News has built a reputation for serving its news, analysis, and opinion with a conservative edge. With Tuesday’s launch of its opinion-only streaming service, Fox Nation, it’s leaning further into that sometimes controversial brand.
“I think our brand identity is pretty clear at this point,” said Fox News senior vice president of development and production John Finley. “We want as many of the superfans as we can get.”
To cater to Fox News’ already massive audience, which according to Nielsen averages 1.7 million daily daytime viewers and 2.8 million nightly primetime viewers, Fox Nation has recruited some of its most popular and most controversial figures to produce new content for the platform, which will apparently feature no traditional broadcast news coverage.
Tomi Lahren, who recently caused a stir after calling the conflict between migrants and border agents “the highlight” of her Thanksgiving weekend, has so far been the figurehead of Fox Nation’s promotional material and will have a twice-daily show on the platform. “Tomi is a massively important part of this,” said Finley. “She’s very popular with our audience and has a tremendous following.”
But Finley says Lahren’s prominence in Fox Nation’s promotional material was simply because she was one of the earliest personalities to sign on.
Other notable Fox News names appearing are on the new platform’s roster include Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Jesse Watters, who have all made headlines for their distinctly conservative commentary. “Basically all of our big talent here at the Fox News channel have some sort of participation in Fox Nation,” explained Finley, characterising the platform’s stars as “people that our fans have come to know and love and want to see more of.”
Finley stressed that Fox Nation will also host some personalities that are new to the network.
The day before the platform’s launch, Fox News announced conservative YouTube duo Diamond & Silk will be releasing weekly 5-minute videos for Fox Nation. The duo rose to fame on the conservative web during Trump’s 2016 campaign and have been the center of their own share of controversy over payments from the Trump campaign and accusations of censorship against Facebook. Their selection seemingly represents an appeal to a more-connected, web-based audience that Fox News may be trying to tap into with its service – Nielsen estimates that over half of Fox News’ audience is over the age of 65, despite the network coming out on top in ratings for the younger demographic.
Finley denied the idea that Fox Nation and its roster are a direct play to bring younger conservatives into the Fox News fold, but suggested that that could be a fundamental effect of the platform: “If younger viewers find us through mobile, then terrific… based on the numbers we’ve seen with the pre-sale program in the last two or three weeks or so there are a lot of people who are signing up who are on mobile devices, which leads us to believe that there is a younger audience that’s interested in this.”
Besides an effort to cast a wider demographic net, Fox Nation may serve other goals for Fox News.
Fox Nation is a unique service among its competitors. No other major news channel in the US has an opinion-only streaming service.
Fox has received multiple signals that their viewers want more opinion content. Between October 2017 and October 2018, Fox News’ primetime viewership, which is stacked with its opinion all-stars, increased by 25% compared to their 16% daytime viewership increase, according to Nielsen. CNN saw just a 1% increase in primetime viewership over the same period.
Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and co-author of the recent examination of partisan media Network Propaganda, suggested that Fox News is uniquely suited to benefit from such an opinion service, saying that it appears to be designed to “jettison any connection to news.”
According to Benkler’s network research, Fox News and other conservative outlets have created their own media ecosystem separate from centrist and liberal sources. Benkler theorizes that the conservative ecosystem has created a feedback loop where a “steady flow of stories and opinions provide viewers a way of understanding who they are in opposition and in outrage to someone else.” Benkler says this strategy has created a loyal base, but only to a certain ideology.
Benkler’s research showed that “Fox News lost some audience during the primaries, because it was slower than some to jump on the Trump train, and it eventually reasserted its dominance and became more secure by becoming more right wing.”
Benkler speculated that Fox Nation will create a more steady stream of viewers, generate revenue, and provide insulation for some of Fox’s major personalities from ad boycotts that have recently hit the network.
Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham both faced serious ad boycotts in the last few years where consumers targeted companies and demanding they pull their ads from those programs.
Reece Peck, assistant professor at the College of Staten Island and author of the upcoming book Fox Populism,said that while Fox Nation is essentially doubling-down on the conservative media formula that he believes made Fox News so successful, it could threaten to hurt the network’s bottom line.
“Fox News made its mark by innovating an opinion-heavy broadcasting formula,” Peck said. “It was more responsive to audience trends on the ground” and, he added, “political talk shows are exceptionally cheap to produce.”
By those economic considerations, it’s understandable why Fox News wants to double down on its conservative opinion content. “By primarily featuring low-cost opinion shows, Fox can test the performance of its conservative media brand in the younger, OTT market and do so with relatively low financial risk,” said Peck.
However, adding an online service to Fox News’ roster could disrupt its business in a way that may not benefit them. “Giving Fox News fans an online alternative could incentivise cord-cutting, even among the older segments of their audience,” said Peck.” If they embrace the OTT model too much, they may very well kill the golden goose that is currently laying all the eggs.”
But according to Finley, Fox News isn’t concerned about that: “I don’t think that Fox Nation is going to change the DNA of Fox News. I think that Fox Nation is an extension of the Fox News Channel’s brand.”
“Fox News is obviously massively successful – we do what we do,” added Finley.
Fox Nation is available Tuesday for $US5.99 monthly or $US64.99 yearly.