DirecTV Drops Newsmax: Censorship or Good Deal?
Beyond the bickering, let’s look at the numbers.
As of midnight on January 24th, Newsmax TV will no longer be available on DirecTV (or its DirecTV Stream or AT&T U-verse). According to DirecTV, it’s the freight charges; the conservative-leaning cable news channel doesn’t believe it.
“This is a clear act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in a statement shared with IndieWire on Wednesday. “The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get premiums from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN should be deplatformed.”
DirecTV, majority owned by AT&T, pulled the pro-Trump channel OAN (One America News) from its channel lineup last April. It also came at the end of a freight contract. Like Newsmax TV today, OAN accused AT&T of playing politics. OAN’s parent company went so far as to sue AT&T for not renewing the channel; a court in San Diego rejected the central claim.
“Nearly all of the 50 channels below Newsmax in the ratings are receiving higher fees than DirecTV currently pays,” Newsmax wrote Wednesday, saying it is “seeking a fee at a 75% discount to its market value.”
DirecTV says the collapse of Newsmax, like the OAN deal before it, was a business decision.
“We have made it clear to Newsmax multiple times that we want to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s request for a rate increase would have resulted in significantly higher costs that we would have had to pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV spokesperson said in a statement shared with IndieWire.
DirecTV also started Newsmax TV and OAN in 2014. The satellite TV provider did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment on Newsmax’s specific claims about the requested fees and TV ratings.
Read more Newsmax’s thoughts on the blackout here.
Beyond the bickering, let’s look at the numbers. In mid-December, IndieWire released its 2022 rankings of all 126 cable channels by average viewership. At the time, Newsmax TV ranked 56th in primetime (8:00-11:00 p.m.) as measured by Nielsen’s Live + Same Day ratings (a data set that, if anything, disproportionately favors news programming). This puts Newsmax below BBC America and Disney Junior, and above NFL Network and the Science Channel.
The other 24-hour cable news channels, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN were all in the top 10; Nexstar’s NewsNation, which bills itself as the central cable news channel, was 85th. So yes: it could be worse.
It’s important to note here that Newsmax is in roughly 25 million fewer homes than the Big 3 cable channels, which of course affects overall viewership.
We now have a full year of data available, and Newsmax TV averaged 120,000 viewers over a 24-hour day. By comparison, league-leading Fox News averaged nearly 1.5 million viewers. MSNBC averaged 734,000 and CNN averaged 565,000. NewsNation brought up the rear once again, averaging 92,000 viewers over a full day.
However. In a key demographic for news programming — viewers 25 to 54 — Newsmax TV averaged just 1,000 more than NewsNation 24 hours a day.
As ugly as this all is, the two sides could still come together, a person familiar with the negotiations told IndieWire, for the right price. But until that…
“Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free on NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and a number of streaming platforms including Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play,” DirecTV continued Wednesday’s statement. “We are constantly evaluating the most relevant shows to provide to our customers and look forward to filling this available channel with new content.”
Maybe don’t hold your breath on that one.
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