Dec 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

America's new news war

Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity last night. Via Fox News

President Trump's election loss has upended America's news landscape, cementing a parallel universe on the right where even Fox News isn't Trumpy enough for millions of his diehards.

Why it matters: The coming diffusion of news across many easily-accessible streaming channels will likely cause Americans to become even further entrenched in their own, partisan filter bubbles. This could lead to the most profound change in news consumption that America has seen in decades.

After years of dominance in cable ratings by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, CNN in the past few weeks has pulled ahead consistently for the first time since 9/11.

  • In the week ending Sunday, CNN averaged 1.73 million viewers in Nielsen ratings — more than double from a year ago, AP reports. Fox News had 1.56 million. MSNBC had 1.53 million.

What's happening: Fox News is facing unprecedented competition from a pair of insurgent conservative cable challengers that are finding a gold mine in pandering to Trump loyalists who want to believe he still has a chance.

  • On Monday, ratings for Newsmax passed Fox in the 7 p.m. hour for the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic for the first time ever, CNN's Brian Stelter reports.
  • As the Biden era begins, MSNBC has seen ratings gains for some daytime programs and for Rachel Maddow's marquee 9 p.m. show.

So Fox News now has a two-front war: tougher competition from traditional rivals CNN and MSNBC, and a growing challenge down the road from upstarts Newsmax and One America News (OAN).

  • Fox News still led all cable networks last week, with an average of 2.65 million viewers. ESPN had 2.45 million, MSNBC had 2.18 million, CNN had 1.92 million and Hallmark had 1.67 million, per AP.
  • Fox said it had its highest-rated November ever.

Our thought bubble: The inevitable transition from cable to streaming means that it's unlikely that three networks will dominate the political news landscape, as they have for the past 24 years.

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify that Newsmax’s rating win over Fox was only for the 7 p.m. hour within a key demographic, and to remove references to Fox’s primetime lineup facing a significant challenge from Newsmax or OAN.

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