4 Years Later: Does Trump Want To Own A TV Network Again?

In the weeks before the 2016 presidential election, a number of publications reported that then-Republican candidate Donald Trump was mulling the idea of owning a cable TV news network.

This came with the expectation that Trump would be defeated.

Four years later, those expectations may be in the works again, especially now with a sharply declining economy, COVID-19 issues, and still weak approval ratings that could spell defeat for a Trump second term.

This comes as The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Hicks Equity Partners was in talks to invest $250 million to acquire OANN, a midsized cable TV news network, from parent company Herring Networks Inc.

OANN (One America News Network) has around 35 million subscribers.

The connection to Trump is that Donald Trump Jr. -- who is close friends with the Hicks family, per the story -- could be involved in a potential equity deal. However, a statement from Donald Trump Jr.‘s spokesperson told Vanity Fair he was not involved.



Some of this speculation has swirled around Trump, given his recent critical (but still mostly positive) view of Fox News Channel, which many see as a huge Trump Administration booster.

The idea is that a hard-core number of Fox News Channel viewers would follow the Trumps to a new TV news channel, which would be used as a promotional platform for all things Trump.

Presidential administrations grab massive amounts of awareness during any four-year term. Trump could be looking to cash in on his marketing value.

But running a TV network operation -- news or otherwise -- is not an easy task. It’s not like buying real estate, building it up and then walking away after some condo sales.

And then there is scale to consider.

Take the estimate of OANN’s 35 million TV homes, which is about 30% of all U.S TV households -- around 120 million -- and match that with Trump’s approval rating — currently around 42% to 44%. Is that enough?

Any TV news network needs to reach viewers far and wide to be effective, get viewership, and more importantly, advertising revenue. A digital platform? That can be a smaller, more focused effort.

Surely, there are many TV news advertisers -- direct-response marketers -- that don’t put any political value on TV content. But what about bigger brand advertisers?

Remember, it was Mark Burnett (executive producer) and NBC (broadcaster) taking the bigger risks in making “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” the money-making shows they were.

Trump? Perhaps a good casting decision. But there was little-to-no downside for Trump if the shows failed. Kind of like losing a presidential election.

So to help Trump in any TV venture, he will need major partners -- with little cash outlay from Trump himself.

One may think Trump helped Fox News Channel to its big viewership numbers in the past four years. But there needs to be much more than just Trump-related content for a news TV operation to survive.

And considering Trump’s iffy history when it comes to some business deals, any partner will want major guarantees. They call it show business, don’t they?

3 comments about "4 Years Later: Does Trump Want To Own A TV Network Again?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 7, 2020 at 11:22 a.m.

    Wayne, Fox had a much larger lead over CNN and MSNBC before Trump. It is still  tops in average minute ratings but by a much reduced margin. Indeed, Trump is probably the reason for huge gains by MSNBC and, to a lesser extent, by CNN.

    As for Trump buying ---or starting---a pro-Trump cable news channel--I suspect that it would have a very difficult time getting coverage and carraige fees to opoerate on a truly national level and massive advertiser support seems doubtful, as Fox discovered, until the ratings go from very, very low to something much larger. If I were advising Trump about a possible TV network venture, I would suggest something like his version of "Saturday Night Live" as a nationally syndicated show that aired one -hour episodes on a nightly basis on TV stations throughout the nation. Imagine the fun he could have mocking his many enemies just as he, himself, has been given the same treatment by the real SNL. The show could be launched via barter syndication, where Trump keeps half of the commercial time to sell to national advertisers while his station "affiliates" sold their spots to local marketers. Would this approach work? Maybe. But it would be interesting to see it tried.

  2. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, May 7, 2020 at 3:44 p.m.

    True that, Ed. Leftist media like CNN and MSNBC have benefited more from the existence of Trump in the Oval Office than Fox. It is one of life's great paradoxes. The more BS that leftist media heaps on Trump, the more the leftist choir will tune into that which is being spread (some true, most false) to release endorphins in their "believing" leftist brains (read Shermer's "The Believing Brain" which speaks to the scientifically backed notion that our brains are "belief engines" that naturally "look for and find patterns" and then infuse them with meaning. Our brains tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs, ignoring information that contradicts them... which Shermer calls "belief-dependent reality").

    The alternative is true too. The existence of Obama in the Oval Office ran Fox's numbers up significantly throughout his meandering eight years.

    One thing for certain. The more lies told about Trump on MSNBC, and CNN... the greater are his chances of re-election. The BS that Fox doled out about Obama during his first term virtually guaranteed his re-election, as well.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 8, 2020 at 11:02 a.m.

    Name one fascist fun show. The SDNY will drain some legal fees and possibly get at least one guilty. As for OANN, it is a white nationalist playground.

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