Conservative news network close to being dropped by DirecTV

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Newsmax, the conservative news channel that carries former President Trump’s rallies, is in a standoff with DirecTV that could lead to the pay TV provider dropping the outlet.

Newsmax and DirecTV have been in talks on a new carriage deal to keep the channel available to 13.5 million subscribers, with a deadline set for midnight Eastern on Wednesday. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the channel will be dropped from DirecTV’s services.

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based operation is asking for cash compensation in its new deal. DirecTV does not pay a fee for carrying Newsmax, unlike its arrangement with more established news channels such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

DirecTV is resisting the demand for carriage fees, the costs of which are often passed on to the consumer. Like all pay TV providers, DirecTV is contending with a shrinking customer base as more people forgo traditional TV subscriptions for streaming services. Cost is often a consideration when cutting the cord.

DirecTV is not planning to budget on its no-compensation stance, partly because Newsmax programming is available for free as a streaming app and a free ad-supporting streaming TV channel carried by Roku, Pluto TV and other platforms. The three major cable news channels require a pay TV subscription to watch live.

“We’ve discussed with Newsmax on several occasions that we’d like to offer their programming, however, the network is now seeking significant fees that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” the company said in a statement. “Additionally, the same programming offered by Newsmax today is already available at no charge to 100% of US households including our customers.”

DirecTV would continue to carry Newsmax under the current arrangement.

Newsmax did not comment on the negotiations, but according to people familiar with the discussions, the network is apparently willing to discontinue streaming for free once pay TV operators agree to pay a carriage fee.

“We expect DirecTV, and its majority owner AT&T, to treat Newsmax on a fair and equitable basis in relation to all of the channels it carries, especially after both companies de-platformed OAN last year,” a representative for the company said in a statement.

DirecTV was in a similar battle with the San Diego-based right-wing outlet One America News, which was dropped earlier this year because of scant viewership.

Newsmax has turned to its right-wing supporters on Capitol Hill for help. A letter from Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), co-signed by several dozen other Republican legislators, suggested DirecTV’s actions were aimed at shutting down conservative voices while continuing to carry low-rated left-leaning channels. The letter cites Vice as an example, which is not a news channel.

“If Newsmax is removed from DirecTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” the letter states.

In a response to Hunt, DirecTV said it is willing to continue carrying Newsmax under the current arrangement, giving the network a distribution platform that enables it to sell national advertising. DirecTV gives News a maximum of two additional minutes to sell per hour that would otherwise be used for local advertising.

Newsmax reaches around 50 million pay TV households.

Launched in 2014, Newsmax evolved into a conservative channel that flanked Fox News on the political right. The outlet saw its ratings grow significantly at the end of 2020, when Trump expressed his dissent with Fox News after it called the state of Arizona for President Biden on election night.

The ratings for Newsmax ebbed by the end of 2021, but the channel still sees major spikes when it airs rallies and speeches by Trump. It most recently averaged 125,000 viewers in prime time based on Nielsen data, a fraction of the TV audiences for Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.

The channel employs a number of former Fox News hosts and correspondents, including Eric Bolling, who departed the Rupert Murdoch-owned network after an investigation into allegations that the host sent unsolicited photos of male genitalia to current and former female colleagues.

Sean Spicer, former press secretary in the Trump White House, also has a daily program, and the network recently added Greta Van Susteran, a veteran of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

While Newsmax hosts are highly critical of the Biden White House and the Democratic party, the channel has backed public health efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration’s support of Ukraine against the invasion by Russia.

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