As we ended 2020, one news cycle had conservative-based TV news channels -- including Newsmax, Fox News Channel and One America News Network -- airing strange, head-scratching segments citing “clarifications,” as well as ‘no evidence,” of widespread voting fraud in regards to two voting machine companies: Dominion Voting Systems and SmartMatic.
The clarifications were in response to threatening letters for “malicious and misleading false claims” by the voting companies and forthcoming big-time defamation lawsuits headed to those TV news networks. The New York Times and others said both could cause real damage.
Putting aside journalistic reputations for the moment, you wonder what’s the bottom line, future viewership and financial take for these TV channels, now that the TV/media-centric commander in chief will soon be shown the door.
Disruptive, often iffy, incorrect and dramatic news came out of the Trump Administration over the last four years, which captured viewers' attention. TV news networks showed big growth -- fueled by political and pandemic news.
Fox News Channel continues to score well in TV viewership, ending the year as the fourth-most-watched prime-time TV network -- of any kind -- in terms of Nielsen-measured viewership. It also earned big advertising revenues.
Still, big consumer TV brand marketers shy away from news networks -- in part, due to keeping one’s distance from possible controversy. Legacy TV news advertisers remain -- pharmaceutical companies, midsize financial or insurance companies, and, more recently, direct-to-consumer marketers.
In the near term, one might expect little to change. We know Donald Trump as a private citizen isn’t going away -- and some networks will be eager to follow his actions, especially regarding the civil and criminal lawsuits he faces.
Expect media appearances to counter Biden Administration moves, possible live rallies (still a big thing for Trump) and whatever major legal issues come Trump’s way. Also consider whatever weird and potentially illegal stuff the Biden Administration might find, left by Trump and his minions, once it takes control. All this could be prime news content.
Conservative and liberal-minded TV networks -- Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, and possible upstarts Newsmax and OANN -- might shift their news content vis-a-vis political parties in power next year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any trading in the important TV metrics.