Media have already named Democrat Joe Biden as the 46th US President beating Donald Trump on his reelection bid, the first President to lose since George H.W. Bush in 1992. But one network is still not calling it and they are earning backlash.
Newsmax Media, a surging conservative network as A.J. Katz of Adweek called it, has been facing criticism by not calling the Presidential Election nearly three weeks after and despite the media commotion and the apparent celebration with Biden leading the count.
But what has pushed them into the limelight of political criticisms has also propelled their ratings into the extremes. According to data from Nielsen, Newsmax averaged 37,000 total prime viewers and 30,000 total day viewers during Q3. But by October, the network averaged almost triple of its Q3 prime viewer count at 96,000 while its total day viewers was at 57,000.
By Election Day, November 3, until November 18, the network saw a tenfold increase in prime viewers with over 364,000. More notably on November 7 when news networks called for Biden’s win, the number swung higher at 400,000. In fact, the network has also reached a million viewer milestone with the November 19 broadcast of Greg Kelly Reports.
Although these numbers are still low compared to major news networks who average millions of prime-time viewers, the increase is still definitely phenomenal for the 22 year old website founded by media executive Chris Ruddy.
In an interview with Adweek, Ruddy called Newsmax Media as the “Fox News of the online world.” As of June 2020, Fox News was the most-watched cable news network in the US with an average 3.97 million prime-time viewers according to Statista. From October 26 to November 17, it even reached 4.7 million prime-time viewers. It is also the dominant right-leaning cable news network.
“I think the numbers are a lot closer than anyone ever imagined,” Ruddy said, claiming that when Newsmax’s OTT viewership and digital content consumption are counted, the margin between his network and Fox News is tightening. He added, “We’re on major devices like Roku and YouTube, and we estimate that at any given time, any given minute, we’re getting 50-100% more viewers than our Nielsen number indicates, and that puts us a lot closer to overtaking Fox.”
The company which was founded in 1998 moved into video by launching an OTT channel called Newsmax TV in 2014 which morphed into a cable news network later that year. Ruddy noted that the cable news market is valued at $6 billion with Fox News claiming half of the business value with the other half divided between the center-left networks like CNN, MSNBC, and others.
“Back then, there was no real competitor to Fox News, and I thought that there needed to be more diversity of opinion on the right, which led me to start Newsmax,” Ruddy said. Today, Newsmax has grown into 70 million households. It has a headquarter office in Boca Raton, Florida and offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington.
There is also a noticeable advertiser growth across almost every category according to Ruddy with ad revenues tripling in Q4 compared to the company stats last year. They are also expecting ad revenues to double by the end of Q1 in 2021. Although Newsmax Media is still a hardsell for many advertisers who are striving to keep neutral to avoid any hint of controversy. Several anonymous ad buyers told Adweek that despite the “recent ratings surge and revenue growth”, it is still too much of a lightning rod.
What makes Newsmax different?
Historically, media specifically cable news invented in the 1980s and the expansion of the Internet in the 2000s have opened up a new stream for consumers which quickly resulted in information saturation leading to a more suspicious and politically fatigued audience and ultimately, news abandonment.
This has also affected the connection between the president and the constituents to a point that viewership of the annual State of the Union Address has decreased over the years notably sixty-seven million in 1993 to thirty two million in 2015.
The advent of social and digital media placed back control and gave a more direct connection between elected officials and their constituents but has also placed power over these platforms creating a very sensitive and daringly manipulative relationship among consumers, media, and politics.
Today, the media has become an increasingly more powerful tool especially in politics. In the hype of the campaign season leading to the Presidential Election, there has been an enormous influx of news which caters to a certain bias.
While Newsmax is a right-leaning network, Ruddy emphasized its fairness, explaining that “we reach out to liberals, we’ve always reached out to have liberal commentators in the mix. We’ve been supportive of President Trump, and we have had articles critical of him.”
He also defended the network’s stance on why Newsmax still hasn’t called the Presidential election saying that it has an “eminently reasonable position” and that “one of the contestants is challenging the results in five states, and it is extremely close.”
He also added that he is aware of the current state that Biden is far up ahead. He said, “I believe as the states certify, we will project those states for the winner, and the Electoral College will confirm that. We will make an appropriate call based on those certifications.”
In fact, the network is already making plans for the Biden administration. “I think Newsmax’s job is to be loyal opposition, to question the policies, the programs and the people that are coming into the Biden administration. We’re going to take a very careful look at that. I think we were pretty fair with Barack Obama. We were tough on him, but we never called for his impeachment. I think we want to take the same approach with Joe Biden,” he said.
Moreover, Ruddy is looking to keep Newsmax editorially independent. “We want to remain a news organization, and that’s why we won’t become ‘Trump TV.’ We’re not going to be a personality-driven channel,” he said.