For months, media circles have buzzed with rumors that once he is out of office, President Donald Trump could launch a news network to take on Rupert Murdoch and Fox News. Last week, ABC reported that Trump’s aides believe they could steal away Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson in the process.
Thursday, Axios reports that Trump has told friends he wants it to be a digital media company, not a cable TV news network.
“He plans to wreck Fox, no doubt about it,” a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions said.
Trump and his team could launch a digital streaming company quickly. Getting a cable channel in enough homes and packages is time-consuming and expensive. In order to make any dent in the cable news space, Trump’s network would need to be in about as many homes as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
The promotion machine that is Trump could send viewers to an online service at a rapid rate. He has nearly 89 million Twitter followers, many of whom would click on his direct links, not see and change the TV channel.
Trump’s base is large and loyal enough to pay a monthly subscription rate, a la Netflix. Fox News currently offers Fox Nation, the $5.99-a-month service that Axios says has an 85% conversion rate from free trials to paid subscribers.
While the digital route would expedite a launch, it doesn’t change the time left on the contracts of Fox News talent.
As I wrote last week, Trump’s success depends on which stars he could poach away:
“Hannity is a more likely get than Tucker Carlson. For four years, Hannity has had front-row access to the president, whom he knew long before Trump was elected. Trump could get at least four hours a day out of Hannity, if he would also simulcast Hannity’s radio show. Carlson, who is about eight years younger than Hannity, spends the least amount of time on Trump of any cable news host. Furthermore, with Carlson’s momentum at Fox, it’d be a risk and hard sell.
“As always, money is the key. It’s unknown the budget Trump would have for a news network, though presumably, he would be willing to make Hannity and Carlson substantial offers.
“Fox News has the budget to compete. Before his ousting, O’Reilly made an annual salary of $25 million. According to CNN Brian Stelter’s book Hoax, Fox News also offered Megyn Kelly a similar number. Stelter claims that Carlson makes around $10 million a year and that Hannity’s current salary comes in at $30 million, though other reports have said Hannity’s is lower than that.”
Even if a Trump network/service comes to fruition and can hire away Hannity and Carlson (doubt it), it still wouldn’t “clobber” Fox News, like Trump reportedly intends to do.
“Fox News would build new stars. It has a talented list of personalities under 50 with high ceilings, such as Pete Hegseth, Will Cain, and Jesse Watters. And Hannity and Carlson aren’t the network’s only top-level personalities. Bret Baier, Bill Hemmer, the Fox & Friends cast, Laura Ingraham, and Dana Perino are also marquee names.”
Anyone near the media industry should root for Trump’s involvement though. Competition is ideal for talents, who could then use the threat of leaving as leverage in their next contract negotiations.