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Fox Nation dumps news coverage, goes all-in on conservative opinion

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Tomi Lahren
Conservative
internet firebrand Tomi Lahren has served as the face of Fox
Nation in the service’s run-up.

Screenshot/Fox Nation

  • Fox Nation, Fox News’ new opinion streaming service, will be
    available Tuesday. 
  • The service features Fox News’ most well-known and
    controversial figures, like Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren.
  • Fox News says that early purchases suggest a younger
    demographic could be served by the platform.
  • Professor Reece Peck says that the plan could end up
    encouraging cord cutting. 

Fox News has built a reputation for serving its news, analysis,
and opinion with a conservative edge. With Tuesday’s launch of
its opinion-only streaming service, Fox Nation, it’s leaning
further into that sometimes controversial
brand
.

“I think our brand identity is pretty clear at this point,” said
Fox News senior vice president of development and
production John Finley. We
want as many of the superfans as we can get.”

To cater to Fox News’ already massive audience, which
according to Nielsen averages 1.7 million daily daytime viewers
and 2.8 million nightly primetime viewers, Fox Nation has
recruited some of its most popular and most controversial figures
to produce new content for the platform.


Tomi Lahren
, who recently
caused a stir
 after calling the conflict between
migrants and border agents “the highlight” of her Thanksgiving
weekend, has so far been the figurehead of Fox Nation’s
promotional material and will have a twice-daily show on the
platform. “
Tomi is a massively important part of this,”
said Finley. “She’s very popular with our audience and has a
tremendous following.”

But Finley says Lahren’s prominence in Fox Nation’s promotional
material was simply because she was one of the earliest
personalities to sign on. 

Other notable Fox News names appearing are on the new platform’s
roster include Sean
Hannity
, Laura
Ingraham
, Tucker
Carlson
, and Jesse
Watters
, who have all made headlines for their distinctly
conservative commentary. “B
asically all of our big talent
here at the Fox News channel have some sort of participation in
Fox Nation,” explained Finley, characterizing the platform’s
stars as “people that our fans have come to know and love and
want to see more of.”

Read more:
A Fox News guest suggested that the tear gas being used on
migrants at the border was so ‘natural’ you could ‘put it on your
nachos’

Finley stressed that Fox Nation will also host some personalities
that are new to the network.

The day before the platform’s launch, Fox News announced conservative
YouTube duo Diamond & Silk will be releasing weekly 5-minute
videos for Fox Nation. The duo rose to fame on the conservative
web during Trump’s 2016 campaign and have been the center of
their own share of controversy over payments from the Trump
campaign and accusations of censorship against Facebook. Their
selection seemingly represents an appeal to a more-connected,
web-based audience that Fox may be trying to tap into with its
service — Nielsen estimates that over half of Fox News’ audience
is over the age of 65.

Finley denied the idea that Fox Nation and its roster are a
direct play to bring younger conservatives into the Fox fold, but
suggested that that could be a fundamental effect of the
platform: “If younger viewers find us through mobile, then
terrific… based on the numbers we’ve seen with the
pre-sale program in the last two or three weeks or so there are a
lot of people who are signing up who are on mobile devices, which
leads us to believe that there is a younger audience that’s
interested in this.”


Fox Nation
Fox
is using well-known Fox News personalities to stack its Fox
Nation roster.

Fox
News


Besides an effort to cast a wider demographic net, Fox
Nation may serve other goals for Fox. 

Fox Nation is a unique service among its competitors. No
other major news channel in the US has an opinion-only streaming
service.

Fox has received multiple signals that their viewers
want more opinion content. Between October 2017 and October 2018,
Fox News’ primetime viewership, which is stacked with its opinion
all-stars, increased by 25% compared to their 16% daytime
viewership increase, according to Nielsen. CNN saw just a 1%
increase in primetime viewership over the same
period. 

Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for
Internet and Society at Harvard University and co-author of the
recent examination of partisan media Network
Propaganda
, suggested that Fox is uniquely suited to benefit
from such an opinion service, saying that it appears to be
designed to  “jettison any connection to news.”

According to Benkler’s network research, Fox News and other
right-wing outlets have created their own media ecosystem
separate from centrist and liberal sources. Benkler theorizes
that the conservative ecosystem has created a feedback loop where
a “steady flow of stories and opinions provide viewers a way
of understanding who they are in opposition and in outrage to
someone else.” Benkler says this strategy has created a loyal
base, but only to a certain ideology.

Benkler’s research showed that “Fox News lost some audience
during the primaries, because it was slower than some to jump on
the Trump train, and it eventually reasserted its dominance and
became more secure by becoming more right wing.”

Benkler speculated that Fox Nation will create a more steady
stream of viewers, generate revenue, and provide insulation for
some of Fox’s major personalities from ad boycotts that have
recently hit the network.

Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham both faced serious ad
boycotts in the last few years where consumers targeted companies
and demanding they pull their ads from those programs.

Reece Peck, assistant professor at the College of Staten
Island and author of the upcoming book Fox
Populism, 
said that while Fox Nation is essentially
doubling-down on the conservative media formula that made Fox
News so successful,

 it could threaten to hurt
the network’s bottom line.

“Fox News made its mark by innovating an opinion-heavy
broadcasting formula,” Peck said. “

It was more
responsive to audience trends on the ground” and, he added,
“political talk shows are exceptionally cheap to produce.”

By those economic considerations, it’s understandable why
Fox wants to double down on its conservative opinion content. “By
primarily featuring low-cost opinion shows, Fox can test the
performance of its conservative media brand in the younger, OTT
market and do so with relatively low financial risk,” said
Peck.

However, adding an online service to Fox News’ roster could
disrupt its business in a way that may not benefit them. “Giving
Fox News fans an online alternative could incentivize
cord-cutting, even among the older segments of
their audience,” said Peck.” If they embrace the OTT
model too much, they may very well kill the golden goose that is
currently laying all the eggs.”

But according to Finley, Fox isn’t concerned about
that: 
“I don’t think that Fox Nation is going to
change the DNA of Fox News. I think that Fox Nation is an
extension of the Fox News Channel’s brand.”

“Fox News is obviously massively successful — we do what we do,”
added Finley.

Fox Nation is available Tuesday for $5.99 monthly
or $64.99 yearly.

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