DirecTV Drops Newsmax: Censorship or Good Business?
Written by on January 26, 2023
Beyond the bickering, let’s look at the numbers.
As of midnight January 24, Newsmax TV is no longer available on DirecTV (or its DirecTV Stream or AT&T U-verse). DirecTV says it’s about carriage fees; the conservative-facing cable news channel doesn’t believe it.
“This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, said on Wednesday in a statement shared with IndieWire. “The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be de-platformed.”
DirecTV, which is majority-owned by AT&T, dropped pro-Trump channel OAN (One America News) from its channel lineup last April. That one also came at the end of a carriage deal. Like Newsmax TV today, OAN accused AT&T of playing politics. OAN’s parent company went so far as to sue AT&T over its choice to not renew the channel; a San Diego court dismissed the central claim.
“Compared to fees currently paid by DirecTV, almost all 50 channels below Newsmax in ratings get higher fees,” Newsmax wrote on Wednesday, stating it is “seeking a fee with a 75% discount to its market value.”
DirecTV said the Newsmax falling out, as the OAN deal before it, was a business decision.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV spokesperson said in a statement shared with IndieWire.
DirecTV began carrying both Newsmax TV and OAN in 2014. The satellite-TV provider did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment on Newsmax’s specific claims about its requested fees vs. TV ratings.
Read more of Newsmax’s thoughts on the blackout here.
Beyond the bickering, let’s look at the numbers. In mid-December, IndieWire published the 2022-to-date rankings, by average viewership, of all 126 cable channels. At the time, Newsmax TV ranked 56th in primetime (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.), according to Nielsen’s Live + Same Day ratings (a data set that, if anything, disproportionately helps news programming). That put Newsmax below BBC America and Disney Junior, and above the NFL Network and Science Channel.
Fellow 24-hour cable-news channels Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN were all Top 10 channels; Nexstar’s NewsNation, which fancies itself the down-the-middle cable-news channel, was 85th. So, yes: It could be worse.
It’s important to note here that Newsmax is available in roughly 25 million fewer homes than the Big 3 cable-news channels, which of course impacts overall viewership.
We now have a full year’s worth of data and, over the course of the 24-hour day, Newsmax TV averaged 120,000 total viewers. For comparison, league-leader Fox News averaged nearly 1.5 million viewers. MSNBC averaged 734,000 and CNN had 565,000. NewsNation again brought up the rear with an average of 92,000 viewers across an entire day.
However. In the age group considered the key demographic for news programming — viewers aged 25-54 — Newsmax TV averaged just 1,000 more than NewsNation across a 24-hour day.
Ugly as this all is, the two parties could still come together, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told IndieWire — for the right price. But until then…
“Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Google Play,” DirecTV’s Wednesday statement continued. “We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”
Maybe don’t hold your breath on this one.