Web-based conservative news outlet Newsmax Media will look to challenge Fox News Channel for politically right-leaning viewers when it launches Newsmax TV on DirecTV on June 16. The channel will target baby boomers with center-right news talk and information, as well as lifestyles, health and financial programming. Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy spoke with programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the content strategy and its plans to compete in the crowded cable-news network space.
MCN: What will Newsmax TV look like when it launches next month?
Christopher Ruddy: On June 16, we’ll be launching with nine hours of live programming. We have a full 24-hour schedule, and some of the earlier programming will be repeated throughout the day. By the summer, we’ll have a morning show broadcast out of Washington, D.C., and by the fall, we’ll have our final lineup.
Overall, we’re going to try to differentiate ourselves from the other cable news channels by focusing more on being more informational. When we say informational, we’re not only talking about topical stories but practical information on health, lifestyles and learning programs. We’re targeting a baby-boomer audience that we believe is underserved. One of the great differentiators is not only our approach but also that we’ll offer a lot of short-form programming, like mini-documentaries. My view is the public is so overwhelmed with information that they don’t have time to sit and watch long-form content.
MCN: Given the network’s conservative political bent, is it fair to compare Newsmax TV to Fox News Channel?
CR: For Newsmax, Fox News is the 400-pound gorilla. It really owns that right-of-center audience. Newsmax is going to be moderately conservative, but we’re not in the business of pushing political agendas. We do have a perspective, just like our Newsmax.com website, but we’re totally open to other points of view.
MCN: How many viewers will you have at launch and how many homes to expect to be in by year-end?
CR: DirecTV will be launching us to 20 million homes on the most penetrated package it offers. I think we’ll be in 40 million homes by the end of the year — that’s the goal that we’ve set for ourselves. We’re getting pretty good reception from the operators. We have a great recognizable brand and people know who we are.
MCN: You’re starting up as an independent network in one of the most difficult environments in which to launch any cable programming service. Why do you feel this is a good time to bow Newsmax TV?
CR: I think it’s a great time for us to launch. Basically, Fox News has been the only channel reaching a conservative viewing audience. What Fox does is great, but Newsmax will be different. Fox has a core audience of 3 million to 5 million viewers, and we think the market for news talk on television is much larger. We already have a very strong presence online and we know that the talk radio audience is upwards of 40 million a week. In addition, boomers are retiring in massive waves and are looking for this type of informational programming that we will provide.
MCN: You are also looking to launch an over-thetop online service. Are you concerned that that might hamper negotiations with operators that are competing against OTT services like Netflix and Hulu?
CR: We’re a creature of the Internet. Down the line, we’re going to be the only 24/7 cable channel on every platform and device in the world. We’ve already received very positive feedback from operators [about the OTT service]. They see our model as something of a testing ground for themselves. The operators are all working on their own over-the-top strategy and they have been very open to what we have to say.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.