The new Pew State of the Media report confirmed that Fox News could be facing future economic woes because for the second straight year they have failed to add any new viewers.
According to Pew, Fox News and MSNBC continued to grow and reach record profits, but their growth came at a slower rate. The difference between the two is that MSNBC was the only cable news network to experience ratings growth across the board. Over at Fox News, there are could be some ominious storm clouds growing, “And Fox News Channel, though still by far the ratings leader, saw viewership figures that, by at least one critical measure, were flat—even in an election year. That could curb its robust economic growth in the years to come.”
Pew also detailed the fact that Fox News’ viewership numbers have gone flat, “Fox News Channel, which still has higher ratings than CNN and MSNBC combined, experienced weaker ratings gains than MSNBC. That comparatively small growth was striking given that 2012 was an election year, playing to Fox’s near singular focus on political news. During daytime hours, Fox was up 4%. Across the total 24-hour day, Fox was up just 2%. And in prime time, Fox was basically flat (with a loss just under 1% compared to its 2011 median viewership). This follows two years of small but real prime-time declines for the top cable news channel and may suggest that the challenge of growing an audience on cable can extend beyond CNN and HLN.”
As we have been writing for the last couple of years, there are some real problems lurking beneath the surface at Fox News. In late January, it was revealed that Fox News’ ratings had hit a 12 year low. In February, viewer trust in Fox News fell to an all time low.
The problem for Fox News is that younger viewers are leaving the network in droves. In February, Fox News lost 29% of their age 25-54 primetime viewers. Those viewers aren’t being replaced. As the Baby Boomers age, they aren’t turning into Fox News viewers. This means that Fox News Channel (FNC) has been very successful at maintaining their core audience, but that aren’t having any success with their attempts to expand.
As their deals with television providers expire, both profits and availability are expected to grow for MSNBC. The same can’t be said for Fox News. FNC is already at their saturation point. They don’t have any new domestic television markets to expand into. What this means is that Fox News viewers have the loyalty of a cult, but the cult is not expanding. Fox News won’t go out of business today or tomorrow, but the problems that they facing are very real.
Fox News is no longer growing. The cable news leader has flat lined. Without new growth, revenue will start to drop, and their economic outlook will dim. What all of this means is that opponents may not have to try to get rid of Fox News. Their hyper-partisan programming and reliance on older viewers might end up doing it for them.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association