Newsmax hosts on Wednesday urged viewers to call members of Congress and “demand they investigate AT&T and DirecTV for possible discrimination against conservative media” following DirecTV’s cancellation of the pro-Trump network.
The network’s anchors all appeared to be reading the same script during these segments, echoing the conservative outlet’s online reaction to the cable provider’s decision to drop Newsmax after renewal negotiations stalled. The previous deal expired at midnight on Wednesday, prompting DirecTV to pull the channel from its lineup.
“If you’re a DirecTV customer or even an AT&T customer of their products, like cell phone, you can call them and ask them to stand up against awakened businesses,” roared anchor Rob Finnerty, for example, on Wednesday morning. “You can also simply cancel their services. You have many options where Newsmax runs, you can also get our free app.
AT&T owns 70 percent of DirecTV, while TPG Capital owns the other 30 percent. DirecTV, along with its majority shareholder, has been under fire from conservatives since the carrier pulled little-watched conspiracy channel One America News from its service last year.
After calling on the Newsmax audience to drop AT&T products, Finnerty begged them to call Congress and push for government action. The network broadcast images with a URL and SMS destinations where viewers could let them know that DirecTV should change its mind.
“Second, we urge you to call your congressman and senator today and demand that they investigate AT&T and DirecTV for their discrimination against conservative media,” Finnerty said.
Early Wednesday afternoon, Newsmax anchors John Bachman, Bianca de la Garza, Shaun Kraisman and Bob Sellers had also read the prepared monologue on air.
This ploy somewhat parallels OAN’s attempts to retaliate against DirecTV after its own removal. At one point, One America News host Dan Ball urged viewers to dig up “dirt” about AT&T’s chairman.
Dozens of House Republicans have already entered the fight against DirecTV on behalf of Newsmax. Days before the contract expired, Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX) – a frequent Newsmax guest – sent a letter to the provider and its parent companies pressuring them to comply with the network’s terms.
Citing OAN’s cancellation, Hunt alleged that DirecTV colluded with Democrats to “de-monetize” conservative media outlets and “switched to Newsmax’s platform by denying it cable fares on a fair and equitable basis.” The letter, which was co-signed by 41 Republicans, also took issue with DirecTV paying transportation fees to less-watched “liberal” channels, specifically Vice TV (which is not a news network).
“If Newsmax is removed from DIRECTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels reaching conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning parts of the country,” said Hunt’s letter, warning that DirecTV could face congressional investigations.
At the heart of the dispute between DirecTV and the right-wing cable channel, of course, is money. Since the launch of Newsmax in 2014, DirecTV – which currently has 13.5 million subscribers – has broadcast the channel without paying the network licensing fees. This is a standard deal between pay TV providers and up-and-coming broadcasters looking to grow their audience.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue offering the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have resulted in significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” said a Newsmax spokesperson. DirecTV spokesman told The Daily Beast.
In addition, DirecTV has noted that Newsmax currently offers its on-air content for free to tens of millions of households through its app, YouTube, and various over-the-top platforms, wondering why it should pay the network transportation costs. The company added that it would be happy to offer Newsmax under the current agreement, which also gives the channel additional time slots for advertising.
Newsmax, whose recent renewals with cable providers include fee agreements, states that “no operator pays a fee while Newsmax streams for free.” The network has also said it will discontinue its free stream in the coming months. Perhaps inadvertently, Finnerty appeared to be making a big deal of DirecTV’s case Wednesday morning by telling viewers to download the channel’s “completely free” app so they can “watch us for free.”
Newsmax struggled to attract significant viewership in its first few years of operation and experienced a sudden surge in ratings following the 2020 election, appealing to disgruntled MAGA fans who were angry at TUSEN News’ appeal on election night in Arizona for Biden. Newsmax praised former President Donald Trump’s support of the network and has broadcast his rallies live and uninterrupted.
While the network’s viewership has dropped dramatically since then, it is still much higher than its pre-2020 level. In the fourth quarter of 2022, the channel averaged 113,000 total viewers and 170,000 in prime time. And while the network touts itself as the fourth most-watched cable news channel, it draws only a small portion of TUSEN News’ audience and lags far behind TUSEN and MSNBC.
“DirecTV has 22 liberal or liberal channels, all of which are remunerated. DirecTV believes only one conservative channel should be compensated,” Newsmax complained in a statement after DirecTV dropped the channel.
The provider has resisted allegations that it is “censoring” Newsmax for partisan reasons and has pointed to the increasingly difficult environment for pay-TV services and Newsmax’s relatively small audience as the main factors it is unwilling to pay to carry the channel.
“We also think it’s important to keep our dispute with Newsmax in perspective. According to Nielsen, the average household audience of Newsmax nationwide is just 101,000 households, representing less than 0.1% of total TV households,” DirecTV general counsel Michael Hartman wrote in a letter to Hunt. . “That’s 92% lower than TUSEN News. If Newsmax no longer authorizes us to carry their channel, our customers will still have access to their clearly favorite conservative news channel, TUSEN News, which has more viewers than MSNBC, TUSEN and Newsmax combined.”
Hartman also scoffed at the idea that DirecTV was “de-platforming” the channel, noting that Newsmax has already pledged to end their free streaming service in order to collect fees from cable providers.
“In other words, 55 million US households would lose access to Newsmax in its current form unless they purchase a Pay TV subscription,” Hartman said. “Who is doing the de-platforming under this model change? Certainly not DirecTV.”