Conservative news network Newsmax might be dropped from DirecTV this week, in a move that House Republicans are saying they will investigate although the pay TV provider said the motivation is saving costs.
DirecTV said it has been carrying Newsmax on its satellite TV service, DirecTV Stream and U-verse TV platforms at no cost to customers because Newsmax has not been charging a fee to carry the channel. That allows Newsmax the ability to generate advertising revenue.
“However the network is now seeking significant fees that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” DirecTV said.
After losing 500,000 subscribers in the third quarter, DirecTV has about 13.3 million customers.
If Newsmax insists on receiving a fee, it could be dropped from DirecTV. That could happen as soon as Tuesday at 11:59 p.m.
The dispute has reached Washington, D.C., where freshman Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) wrote a letter to DirecTV and its owners seeking information about the situation. The letter was cosigned by more than 40 other members of Congress.
“It is our understanding that DirecTV — still majority-owned by AT&T and minority-owned and managed by TPG Capital — is moving to deplatform Newsmax by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis,” the Hunt letter said.
The letter notes that DirecTV no longer carries One America News Network, which is another right-leaning news service, and carries “11 ‘liberal news and information‘ ” networks, including Vice. OAN's owner, Herring Networks, cried foul over the OAN drop and sued DirecTV in California. A court recently dismissed the central claims in that breach-of-contract lawsuit.
“Taken together, these two actions lead us to believe that DirecTV, one of the nation’s largest multichannel video programming distributors, is actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system,” the letter said. “This is extremely concerning for Members of Congress because it suppresses political discourse and hamstrings our ability to connect with our constituents.”
If Newsmax is dropped, following the removal of OAN, the letter said “Congress intends to conduct extensive oversight on the extent to which House Democrats and officials in federal offices colluded with private companies to limit, restrict, and circumvent First Amendment rights. These investigations will not be limited to social media companies.”
The letter asks DirecTV to respond and provide ratings for the ratings of the news networks, set-top box data and information about the fees paid to those networks.
According to Nielsen, Newmax’s averaged 101,000 households, or less than 0.1% of total TV households, which is 92% lower than Fox News Channel, 84% lower than MSNBC and 79% lower than CNN.
DirecTV noted that Newsmax makes its channel available to viewers at no charge via NewmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and streaming platforms including Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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