Fox News planning move into digital

NEW YORK • Thanks to a relentless news cycle - and a dedicated fan in the Oval Office called Mr Donald Trump - Fox News has outfoxed other rivals, notching its highest-rated year last year even as audiences dwindled for many networks.

But the mass migration of viewers away from traditional cable and satellite packages is accelerating.

And now Fox News is plotting a leap into the uncertain digital future that rivals such as CNN have so far put off.

Yesterday, Fox News was set to announce Fox Nation, a stand-alone subscription service available without a cable package.

The streaming service, expected to start by the end of the year, would focus primarily on right-leaning commentary, with original shows and cameos by popular personalities such as Sean Hannity.

It would not overlap with Fox News's 24-hour cable broadcast - not even reruns - because of the channel's contractual agreements with cable operators.

Instead, the network is planning to develop hours of new daily programming with a mostly fresh slate of anchors and commentators.

Mr John Finley, who oversees programme development and production for Fox News, said the network was still discussing the cost of a subscription.

The Fox News venture joins an increasingly crowded - and increasingly niche - marketplace for web-only streaming television.

ESPN is starting its subscription service, ESPN Plus, in spring.

Last year, about five million viewers signed up for HBO and Cinemax digital subscriptions.

This past week, CBS said it counted five million subscriptions to its CBS and Showtime streaming services.

It plans to add two stand-alone products, CBS Sports HQ and an offering branded for Entertainment Tonight.

Fox News reaps more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in annual profit, providing ample funds to hire a new team for Fox Nation, which is not expected to initially carry advertising.

Streaming services in conservative media have had a mixed record of success.

Among Fox News' main rivals, MSNBC has no stand-alone product.

CNN has a streaming service, CNNgo, which offers some free original programming, but it otherwise requires an existing cable or satellite subscription.

Mr Jeff Zucker, CNN's president, said in December that he was considering a digital product for the channel's Great Big Story brand, which is aimed at younger viewers.

But will Mr Trump tune in to Fox Nation too?

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline 'Fox News planning move into digital'. Print Edition | Subscribe