The end of the Trump years is already weighing on Fox News, a network facing newfound competition in the cable news landscape it has dominated for years. CNN and Newsmax are both gaining on Fox from different directions in the aftermath of the election, with CNN consistently surpassing Fox in Nielsen ratings for the first time since the period after 9/11, the Associated Press reports. Between the day after Election Day and Sunday, CNN averaged 1.73 million viewers, more than double a year ago, while Fox averaged 1.56 million; MSNBC, which Axios notes has seen a ratings uptick for some of its programs in recent weeks, averaged 1.53 million. In addition to the threat posed by traditional rivals, Fox is now seeing formidable competition on the right from Newsmax and One America News, right-wing cable channels willing to parrot Donald Trump’s election denialism claims and enjoying a massive boost in ratings and name recognition as a reward. “Fox News’ powerful primetime lineup,” as Axios put it, “now has a two-front war,” and on Monday, Newsmax viewership reportedly surpassed Fox for the first time ever.
Which is perhaps fueling the conundrum that the network now finds itself in: Fox is at once not radical enough for Trump loyalists on the right but too much a cult of denial for people who want to take the Biden administration seriously. Fox is split, as my colleague Caleb Ecarma notes, with some news anchors offering “moments of forced reality” that “are the exception, not the rule” as other hosts, such as Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, are still holding out for a Trump win and fanning the flames of the president’s baseless election-theft claims.
Trump loyalists have instead turned to alt-reality proponents such as Greg Kelly, who began his Tuesday night Newsmax program by telling viewers that “paths to victory remain” for Trump, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter, who notes “Fox is still four times higher-rated than Newsmax at any given time of day” but is nevertheless “down from its pre-election highs while Newsmax is way up.” The ratings drop-off may also reflect the cable news fallout from Trump being voted out. As the tides have shifted, apparently so has incentive to tune in, now that Fox is no longer interlinked with Trump’s policy moves. Without that power, the network, like Trump himself, could increasingly fade into irrelevance.
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