Newsmax vs. Fox News; Sports Media-Biden: Media Mailbag

Another great week of questions for the OutKick Media Mailbag. Thanks to all the readers who sent in.

Here we go:

“What did you think of the way sports media people handled the election?”

Before I answer this, I want to reiterate my position on sports media talents discussing politics:

I have zero issues with it. My problem is that networks like ESPN allow only the left to express their views. Or at least, the few right-leaning talents are fearful of expressing due to past network decisions. There is also a business aspect to it. If a sports network is going to talk about politics, it must know the ramifications. High Noon, SC6, and The Right Time were the most politically aggressive sports shows. All exclusively provided a far-left perspective. All badly failed.

To your question:

Most of sports media was, obviously, fond of Joe Biden’s projected win. If Trump had won, Elle Duncan, Max Kellerman, Bomani Jones, Sarah Spain, and Pablo Torre would’ve melted down. Possibly on-air.

On a positive note, three radio hosts handled the situation nearly ideal: Colin Cowherd, Mike Greenberg, and Adam Schein.

Cowherd acknowledged the election but said nothing to alienate either side. Ignoring the biggest day in many viewers’ lives would’ve been inauthentic. By bringing it up without taking a side or giving a take, Cowherd was the guy paying attention to election results but looking to talk sports instead. 

Mike Greenberg’s approach was similar. Greenberg admitted the challenges of sports-talk on the day of and after the election, with high anxiety spread nationwide. He noted days like those are why sports talk is important. Fans needed an escape, to focus everything on something that doesn’t mean anything.

Finally, Adam Schein did get into the election but swiftly turned the segment into a positive. Schein praised CNN’s John King but also credited Fox News and MSNBC. He watched every network. Schein was just the sports fan trying to get the best information and listening to all sides. I have to admit, when he began his segment, I thought, “Uh oh, he is about to turn off some listeners.” Props to Schein for handling the election as well as anyone in the industry.

I can confidently predict the candidate every sports media personality who touched on the election voted for, except Adam Schein. I have no idea if he voted for Trump, Biden, Jo Jorgensen, or wrote in Patrick Mahomes.

“Huge week for Newsmax. Even if they can never catch FOX News, can they at least take some viewers?”

By “huge week,” I assume you are talking about the social media buzz. Newsmax was certainly in the online conversation, beginning on election night after Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden. While Newsmax will take it —the long-term ramifications are minimal.

Let’s slow down.

Online frustration rarely translates into action. I do not see a scenario where a noticeable number of routine Fox News viewers leave because of election night or Neil Cavuto. It’s likely that the viewers who claim the network isn’t conservative anymore didn’t previously watch the personalities present on election night.

Fox News’ election coverage — save for updates from Tucker Carlson — featured its news division. Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, Martha MacCallum, and the decision-desk weren’t there to tell viewers Trump’s chances were greater than they were or to ignore their projection models to avoid angering viewers. Even Fox News’ critic Brian Stelter admitted as much.

The network separates its news division from opinionists. This was apparent the very next night in primetime. Since election night primetime hosts Carlson and Hannity have provided a different viewpoint than the news division. Hannity took issue with Arizona’s call. Carlson seemed to disapprove of Cavuto cutting Kayleigh McEnany off.

I don’t see what has changed. It has always been this way, by design.

All the social media anger has led Hannity to draw over 5 million viewers on Tuesday and Carlson and Ingraham to draw above their averages. What is the problem?

Are there going to be some viewers so mad at the call and coverage that they will switch to Newsmax or OANN? Maybe, but if so, it’s a small number, which isn’t going to change the landscape of the industry.

There are WWE viewers who prefer Impact Wrestling. There are streamers who like Crackle more than Netflix. When more options in an industry emerge, small niches form that are wins for alternatives but not losses for industry leaders.

Newsmax had its most publicized week since launch, and per Nielsen data, from November 2 to November 6, averaged 176,000 in total day viewership. That is less than niche business channels Fox Business (251,000) and CNBC (189,000). In October, Fox News averaged 2.3 million; CNN and MSNBC drew 1.4 million and 1.5 million, respectively.

Newsmax can attract a passionate base, and branding itself as “the conservative Fox News,” as it’s doing, might be a good marketing strategy. Bogus reports that Fox News suspended Judge Jeanine Pirro may help as well. Perhaps, something is there. But the apocalypse is not coming for Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

Poaching established star talents is the only route a challenger has to emerging as a bother to the top. FS1 hired away Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless, two of ESPN’s biggest draws, and were able to take away some of ESPN’s viewers during the two hosts’ time slots. While FS1 isn’t catching ESPN, Bayless and Cowherd have had an impact on ESPN viewership.

If President Donald Trump ultimately starts his own cable news network, which he may be considering, he could lead a similar charge. Hypothetically, signing Sean Hannity away from Fox News and placing him directly up against his replacement at 9 p.m. could work. It wouldn’t win head-to-head, but the potential network featuring Hannity could be a ratings disruptor.

That said, digital content, not other TV channels, is the strongest alternative to cable news. In news media, the biggest draws are not at Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC. Ben Shapiro is with his own company, the Daily Wire. Dan Bongino’s podcast is independent. Steven Crowder has 5 million YouTube followers, and Crooked’s Pod Save America tops all liberal digital shows.

All three cable news channels should prioritize bolstering and creating new podcasts and free digital shows to avoid the mistake ESPN made by letting Barstool and The Ringer, two outsiders, pull away in sports podcasting

But I’m not close to buying the concern for any of the big three cable channels. As always, online noise is close to meaningless. It’s mostly non-TV viewers complaining about TV channels they follow on Twitter but don’t watch.

Who will end 2020 as the biggest winner in media?

Joe Rogan. Everyone in media is chasing three things, rank them as you prefer: money, autonomy, and audience.

Any argument?

Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

16 Comments

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  1. I stopped watching Fox News, I had been watching less and less because of all the lies they allow left wing pundits to tell. Example, they continue to allow the likes of Juan Williams to repeatedly lie about President Trump. Juan keeps saying that Trump demonizes immigrants, which is a complete lie. Trump wants to ILLEGAL immigration and have folks immigrate in an orderly and lawful process.

    Respectfully, I do not agree that Chris Wallace is news person, he has clearly become a left wing opinion pundit.

    Chris Wallace was clearly partisan on the side of Joe Biden during the debate, both Biden and Wallace started interrupting President Trump during the first segment of the debate regarding SCOTUS. And Chris Wallace pushed both candidates not to declare victory until the election results had been independently certified and Biden agreed to that. Then Chris Wallace went on Fox News and lied and lied and lied…..he said Trump started interrupting during the debate, which a complete lie. And he’s been criticizing Trump and the GOP for not conceding the election. Wallace again lied because the election results in several states have not yet been certified.

    Chris Wallace has proven that he’s no news person, he’s a left wing partisan political hack that now specializes in lying on a daily basis. I used to DVR several shows on Fox News, I really like Tucker, Hannity, Laura, Mark Levin….but I removed all those shows from my DVR. I have been going to Newsmax, Bretibart OAN and The Federalist to get my news.

  2. Bobby, I too think you’re wrong about Fox and the impact this election will have on their subsequent ratings.

    When their News Department’s Decision Desk decided to call AZ far too early, and then tried to spin it throughout the night first with Chris Stirewalt and then later by Arnon Mishkin, it just didn’t pass the smell test.

    They tried to justify it, reassuring viewers that they were absolutely certain about the numbers.

    Today, on November 12, Arizona is still too close to call and still no real answer from Fox as to why they called it with nearly a million votes to be counted especially when people projected an incredibly tight race.

    What was the urgency? Why call it so early? Did the McCain family push for an early announcement as some have postulated? Where they using this early call then to justify their projection of a Biden win on Saturday?

    Then when Neil Cavuto cut away from Kayleigh McEnany’s press conference to “fact check”, that was it for many. Me included.

    Fox is off my YouTube Tv, unsubscribed from their You Tube channel and as much as I enjoy Tucker, Laura and Hannity (at times), I won’t be watching them except on YT channels that are NOT Fox.

    F em.

    The only thing those bastards will really get is if it hits them in the wallet. Their contempt for the people that supported their channel for YEARS came out and has more and more over time (Chris Wallace at the first “debate” anyone?)

    Fox had surging ratings throughout the pandemic for Tucker, Laura and Hannity because of years long loyal viewers (and because the opinion people were the only ones worth watching) as well as a legion of new followers.

    What happened that election night just revealed the seeming contempt for those loyal followers but more importantly by the Fox News Dept. But it’s more than that…they just violated the most basic of journalistic integrity by calling it so early and then having no intellectual curiosity in following the mountain of evidence of possible vote fraud. “There’s nothing to see here you uneducated rubes. WE call the election.”

    In optical terms 20/20 is the term for clear vision and if there’s one thing that 2020 has shown us is clearly who they are for and who they are against.

    I am voting with my wallet and my eyeballs.

    The My Pillow Guy might want to find a new outlet.

    • I agree with all your points. I also find it disgusting that Fox is censoring input. A few weeks ago on Outnumbered, Newt Gingrich mentioned that George Soros has funded several left wing District Attorneys that support crime and are against law enforcement. Gingrich as immediately shut down by a couple of the women on Outnumbered and was told not to mention Soros’s name. Truly disgusting. Yup, I took Tucker, Hannity, Laura, Gutfeld, Mark Levin all off of my DVR. Plenty of other reputable, honest news sources we can go to.

  3. Worst writer at outkick. Misses the point way too often. The vast majority of Fox News personalities noticeably changed over the past year or two. The question is (psst, Bobby, this is the point), did the junior Murdocks require the proper behavior or are they a bunch of phonies that went home and laughed at their stupid ass viewers? Even Bret Baier, who I’ve said is the closest thing to Tim Russert, has changed his reporting to be more like “the others”.

  4. “Who will end 2020 as the biggest winner in media?” Here’s an argument: how about ya boy Clay Travis? Money, autonomy and audience, right? It’s hard to argue any person in media/media outlet has grown/benefitted more in 2020. Outkick brought on Whitlock, revamped the site, and had a direct line to Trump and the Whitehouse. Clay is on TV, radio and still producing loads of written contend. Clay/Jason/Outkick is the poster child for autonomy, no doubt about that. Perhaps Clay is behind Rogan on raw numbers in terms of money and audience, but I’d be interested to know the percentage of growth for each in 2020. On it’s face, just seems like Clay/Outkick put up a pretty good fight against anyone.

  5. My lady always has the “news” on in the background all morning. Its on Fox/local affiliate in L.A. until about two weeks ago. Now, it stays on Newsmax. I kinda like it.

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