Here is the latest round in the anonymous public jockeying between Glenn Beck and Fox News I warned you about the other day.
The New York Times is reporting that Glenn Beck is “contemplating” his own channel once his Fox News contract is up at the end of the year.
Shorter version: After the NYT ran a much-discussed column about how Fox might drop Beck because of his ratings, Beck is pushing back to make absolutely clear if he leaves Fox it will be because he has better things to do.
According to the NYT he has been “contemplating” this “for more than a year” so why else break the news now?
That’s not to say he doesn’t have better things to do. I wrote a column back in 2009 arguing that Glenn Beck was the next Oprah Winfrey — since then Beck managed to get 350,000 people to come to the National Mall in August (who else but Oprah could have pulled that off) and Oprah has launched her own television network. It’s entirely possible he is contemplating a similar path.
Moreover, if he wasn’t contemplating his own channel, or other channels, or some sort of stand-alone web enterprise it would be strange and entirely out of character considering the hugely successful and innovative business Beck and partner Chris Balfe have built out of Mercury Radio Arts. (Balfe discussed their strategy at BI’s Ignition conference in November.)
Not to mention Beck’s The Blaze, which is angling to make itself a real player on the online news scene (cf. their James O’Keefe takedown). Not to mention (again) Beck’s devoted audience (you don’t pull in ratings like it at 5pm because people have nothing better to do).
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Two of the most telling quotes in the piece suggest this news is as much about establishing negotiating positions as anything else.
First, the only person involved to go on the record is Beck himself who is careful (once again) to say nice things about Roger Ailes.
“Roger Ailes has built the most important voice in America today — Fox News — and it is an honour to do my show there every night,” he stated. “I have no intention whatsoever of doing the show I am doing now on Fox anywhere else.”
Second: “Mr. Beck may not be able to actively pursue such an arrangement until his Fox contract is up.”
Probably very much not. Which means a lot of this is going to remain (public) speculation through the end of the year. At which point both Beck and Ailes will weigh the advantages of a very public platform against the obvious disadvantages. (Fox wants more control over Beck, Beck doesn’t like to deal with the constraints and back-biting, among other things).
But giving up a platform the likes of which Beck has at Fox is no easy thing. Neither is starting a media enterprise — the NYT points out the struggles even Oprah has encountered.
And while people are becoming more accustomed to getting their TV via other platforms it has yet to become the norm, especially for the over-50 crowd which makes up Beck’s main audience — if Beck only wanted to be a radio star then he accomplished that mission years ago. So perhaps don’t count on your Beck channel quite yet.
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