What Trump TV Will Mean For Advertisers

I remember when the upstart Fox News Channel started to challenge CNN in the ratings.  It was the late 1990s, and I was in charge of television research at TN Media.  Ironically, it was the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Bill Clinton’s impeachment that drew a lot of new viewers to Fox News in 1998/99.  But it wasn’t until January 2002 that Fox News surpassed CNN as the cable news network rated number one in total viewers — a position it has basically retained ever since.

Even as Fox News became the leader in average ratings, CNN was still able to charge considerably more for advertising.  That’s primarily because advertisers and their agencies still saw CNN as a more legitimate news network, and tended to scoff at Fox News’s claims of being fair and balanced.  I should also note that I was told directly by more than one Fox News sales rep at the time that Rupert Murdoch didn’t care if they couldn’t charge as much as CNN for advertising.  He saw it as his calling to fight liberal media bias and to get his conservative message out to the world.



Twenty years after Fox News burst on the scene to compete with CNN (which Fox has long referred to as the “Clinton News Network”), we have the 2016 presidential election, when the former head of the even more conservative Breitbart News Web site is helping to run Donald Trump’s presidential campaign against another Clinton.

The third presidential debate is tonight, and I can’t imagine what will happen on stage.  I’m sure the second debate was lower-rated than the first because a lot of parents didn’t want to watch it with kids in the room.  

Trump, having been accused by several women of sexual assault, is slipping in the polls.  Virtually every political pundit -- on both sides of the aisle -- says that Trump's only path to victory is to attract more women and minorities. Less than a month from Election Day, however, he seems only interested in revving up his base by bashing the Clintons, talking about perceived global conspiracies, and claiming the election is rigged.  In other words, he knows he is probably going to lose, and is setting up the notion among his base that the election was stolen.

So what is Trump’s next move?  I find it hard to believe that, after his rhetoric of the past month, he will simply congratulate Hillary Clinton on a hard-fought victory and move back to being a businessman.  More likely he will hold one of his rallies, rail against the system and the “rigged” election, and announce the soon-to-be-formed Trump TV, headed by the man himself, Steve Bannon (of Breitbart News), and Roger Ailes (who himself left Fox News under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations), which he’ll claim will continue to give his supporters a voice and fight the corrupt Clinton machine.  

Trump TV will be considerably more to the right of even Fox News.  It will be, initially at least, the first alt-right television news network.  What is alt-right? Well, according to Wikipedia, “The alt-right is a segment of right-wing ideologies that reject mainstream conservatism.  Generally, alt-right postings (online) support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and oppose immigration, multiculturalism, and political correctness.  The alt-right has no formal ideology, although various sources and alt-right figures have stated that white nationalism is fundamental.”

How will advertisers react to a Trump network ?  Most will probably not want to have anything to do with it initially.  But if the network starts to build an audience and hires some credible news anchors away from other channels, it could draw enough advertisers to survive.  

A more interesting question is, how many cable/satellite systems will agree to carry it?  Or will it simply become an online news service?  Let’s keep in mind that even Fox News’s highest-rated prime-time show, “The Kelly File,” only gets a 0.4 rating among adults 25-54.  So the ratings bar for a successful cable news network isn’t that high.

Stay tuned.

12 comments about "What Trump TV Will Mean For Advertisers".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2016 at 1:39 p.m.

    After Trump gets soundly beaten in November---and this seems to be what is likely at this point---I expect him to try and probably fail to launch a cable channel or, if partially successful at that, to go all-in online with a digital version of The Huffington Post---only Trump style. Here he can blast away hourly at both parties and have his "Post" sourced, hence unwittingly promoted, by the TV network and cable news outfits, who will sieze upon every zany comment Trump posts as "breaking news". As a result, Trump will command a growing audience which he can use to set the stage for a third party Presidential candidacy in four years. Can this be done? Can it be successful? Rember how Nixon tossed in the towel on his political career after getting beaten for the Governorship of California in the 1960s? Following that defeat, he began to work the GOP political rounds, making speech after speech and, guess what? In 1968, a once thoroughly beaten Nixon, appeared out of nowhere and won the GOP Presidential Nomonation---and won the election. So, maybe, we'll be seeing more of Trump, even if he is seemingly demolished this November--gulp!

  2. Kevin Lee from Didit, October 19, 2016 at 1:40 p.m.

    Can't argue with the hypothesis above.  Also, I predict that Rupert Murdoch will buy it three years after launch.

  3. Charlie Stogner from StogTv, October 19, 2016 at 2:50 p.m.

    Trump TV can develop a national network by, in a way, taking a page for Fox News. If they'll check with the national association of leased access programmers they can get the information needed to do this while having local affiliates bear the cost of carriage.

  4. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, October 19, 2016 at 3:06 p.m.

    My guess (and, yes, my hope as a fellow kid from Queens, NY) is that the Trump brand will be damaged beyond repair by its namesake's election campaign. Bankruptcy courts everywhere... be ready!

  5. Rick Thomas from MediaRich Marketing, October 19, 2016 at 4:11 p.m.

    When Howard Stern was on terrestrial radio there was a "No Stern" dictate from agencies and brands.  When advertisers placed buys on Stern they all got letters from one of those conservative groups saying they would do everything to get conservatives to not buy said brand's products.  In some cases it caused agencies and brands to pull their commercials from Stern. 

    If Trump's network goes beyond Fox News and looks like Newsmax or Alex Jones or Breitbart the advertiser backlash will be simply dramatic.  The network will be full of direct response advertisers which should work well with that audience since they were sold up the river by Donald Trump.  The biggest issue with Newsmax is that 9 out of every 10 advertisers pitched have issues with their content.  And they will tell you that as they did to me.  Hence a lot of DR and long form programming.  Trump may be stuck with that foundation for content.  And that probably is not a huge moneymaker for him.  Half hour or hour long programming from the likes of Dick Morris just ain't gonna cut it.  I would think this network would have issues from the start.  At the finish line?  Maybe the same thing, a lot of issues.     

  6. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, October 19, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    Advertisers initially shied away from Fox News and Huffington Post because they didn't want to be associated with such biased reporting.  As for Trump TV, in addition to that, it will also likely have a median age well over 60, and a more downscale viewership (at least initially).  It will have trouble getting national well-known brands.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2016 at 4:43 p.m.

    As I pointed out in my earlier comment, it's hard to see how Trump could mount a vaible cable channel, if, for no other reason, because he wouldn't gain anything near national distribution. Also, as has been pointed out, ad dollars, to say nothing of carriage fees, would be minimal. On the other hand, an online venture would require a much smaller investment and would not depend on ads for most of its support. Trump could easily garner a bunch of far right gurus---hopfully more buttoned up than Morris proved to be---and charge for their essays on a "premium subs" basis. With his tweets and other online sayings being constantly quoted by the cable and broadcast news organizations he would have all the publicity he needs to grow his following. This, in turn, would create a power base for what I think is on his mind---namely a third party go at the Presidency starring Donald in the lead role.

  8. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, October 19, 2016 at 5:33 p.m.

    Somehow I don't think Trump wants to run just another right wing website.  If he can't do his own cable network, he's more likely to either get a Primetime hour on Fox News or get his own talk radio show. 

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 19, 2016 at 6:38 p.m.

    One of the differences between Nixon and tRump is age. tRump will be 74 for a 2020 race and Nixon was much younger. One of the similarities is that Nixon was on the Committee of UnAmerican Activities run by Joe McCarthy and tRump's tuteledge was Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy et al who wants to find and deport 11 miiilion people which would take other's to task in order to find them AKA brownshirting.

  10. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2016 at 6:44 p.m.

    Steve, it all depends on Trump's motivation and goals. If all he wants is a job as Fox's 10PM commentator, which I tend to doubt as Trump certainly would be reigned in by the Fox brass and he doesn't need the money, then you may be right. If, however, trump believes his nonsensical propaganda ---that the "corrupt media" and the weak kneed GOP leadership cost him the election---then he might just want to prove that he was the right guy after all and "save" America four years from now by attracting many independent, GOP and Democrat defectors under the umbrella of a Trump-led "America First" party. I think the man's delusions would easily take him in that direction---which I believe is doomed to failure. So, in Trump's mind, it wouldn't be another right wing website, it would be one that presents "the truth" and is basically anti-establishment in orientation.

  11. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2016 at 7 p.m.

    Paula, to be fair to Nixon, he was on the House Committee on Un-Amercian Activities and was the main force behind the conviction of Alger Hiss, but this was  several years before McCarthy's quick rise and fall as head of the Senate Comittee on Governmental Operations which coincided---as I recall---with the eisenhower administration. By that time Nixon was a loyal follower of DDE--even if he privately may have agreed with McCarthy on some issues----and he was mostly silent---again, as I recall---when Eisenhower finally stood up to the Wisconsin senator.

  12. charles bachrach from BCCLTD, October 20, 2016 at 10:31 a.m.

    Trump isn't good for this country, let alone for advertisers who would be stupid enough to use him or his image .....unless it was "Mad Magazine"

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