Rupert Murdoch’s cable news channel said on Monday that it would revamp its daytime lineup starting next week, the week of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration, adding another hour of right-wing opinion as a lead-in to its prime-time stars Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.The changes, beginning Monday, come as Fox News has experienced an unusual ratings dip that began after Election Day. Pro-Trump viewers balked at the network’s early call of Arizona in favor of Mr. Biden, and its subsequent recognition of Mr. Biden as the rightful victor further alienated supporters of President Trump, who …
His president reeling, his cable network at a crossroads, Tucker Carlson began his show on Thursday night asking a question that has echoed for weeks among anchors and producers at Fox News: “What is life going to be like for us on Jan. 21?”“Who has got your concerns top of mind? Who wakes up in the middle of the night worried about your family?” Mr. Carlson asked his flock, acknowledging that Mr. Trump would be gone in two weeks “and we cannot change it.”“The rest of us — and this is the key — will still be here,” he continued. “We’ …
He concluded by saying that those who showed no understanding of the concerns of the people who stormed the Capitol were foolish. “We got to this sad, chaotic day for a reason,” he said. “It is not your fault. It is their fault.”Right-wing personalities, who have helped fuel a movement built on misinformation and conspiracy theories, were reluctant to blame Mr. Trump for the violent actions of his supporters. On Newsmax, a conservative network that caters to Trump partisans — and whose most popular host, Greg Kelly, has insisted without basis that Mr. Trump can still win the election — commentators …
CNN and MSNBC thrived during the Trump years, reaching new heights in ratings and revenue while devoting countless prime-time hours to criticizing a White House antagonist their viewers just could not quit.Now faced with a Trump-less future, top executives at the rival cable news networks have summoned star anchors and producers to private meetings in recent weeks, seeking answers to a pressing question: What’s next?People at both networks know that viewers who abhorred President Trump may no longer need their nightly therapy sessions with Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. seems unlikely …
MSNBC was already preparing for one momentous presidential transition next year. Now the 24-hour cable channel and home to liberal stars like Rachel Maddow is about to take on a second.Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president whose left-leaning shows yielded big ratings in the Trump years and minted media brands like “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe,” will depart on Feb. 1 after a 12-year tenure, the network said on Monday.He is to be succeeded by Rashida Jones, a senior vice president for news at MSNBC and NBC News, who will become the first Black woman to take charge …
In 2004, Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and Christopher Ruddy had some making up to do. He was, back then, best known as “the Inspector Clouseau” of the Vince Foster case — a New York Post reporter who had popularized the baseless theory that Mrs. Clinton’s friend, who committed suicide in 1993, had been murdered.But it now seemed possible that Mrs. Clinton might run for president, and Mr. Ruddy laid it on pretty thick. Mrs. Clinton was doing “a remarkably and surprising good job for NY as Senator,” he wrote to a mutual friend, former Mayor Ed Koch of New …
Flanked by aides in the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Trump dialed up a friend in the news media with a message: Keep up the good work.
“He said that it’s just incredible, the ratings you’re getting, and everyone’s talking about it,” recalled Christopher Ruddy, the owner of Newsmax, a niche conservative cable network that has yet to declare a winner in the 2020 presidential election.
Based in Boca Raton, Fla., the network features lo-fi production values and off-brand personalities like Sean Spicer and Diamond and Silk. Even finding it can be a chore: It appears on Channel 1115 in some major markets. But since Election Day, Newsmax has become a growing power in a conservative media sphere that has been scrambled by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede.
Hundreds of thousands of new viewers have tuned into Newsmax programs that embrace the president’s debunked claims of voter fraud and insist that Mr. Trump can keep the White House. Until recently, the network’s top shows attracted a paltry 58,000 viewers. On Thursday night, the network drew its biggest audience ever, notching 1.1 million viewers at 7 p.m.
The out-of-nowhere rise has come as Fox News — the No. 1 network in TV news and long the destination of choice for many Trump partisans — has experienced a rare dip in dominance. Ratings for the Rupert Murdoch-owned network have dropped since election night, when its early projection that Mr. Biden had won Arizona infuriated Mr. Trump and his allies.
“The great @FoxNews daytime ratings CRASH will only get worse!” the president tweeted on Friday.
“CRASH” is overstating things: Fox News remains the most-watched cable news network in prime-time, averaging about 3.5 million viewers the week after the election. But the shift underscores a volatility among conservative audiences as Mr. Trump denies the reality of his defeat.
While Fox News is home to Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity, it also runs a decision desk and a daytime news operation that have declared Mr. Biden the president-elect. That is something many Trump fans do not want to hear, and Newsmax, which frequently reminds viewers it has not projected a winner, is rushing to provide an alternative.
“This whole idea of a president-elect, it is a media fabrication,” Greg Kelly, the 7 p.m. Newsmax host, told viewers last week. “This is not done. This thing could turn.” On Thursday, Mr. Kelly recorded his best numbers yet, pulling 1.1 million viewers for his hour.
Mr. Kelly, a former Fox News correspondent and a son of the former New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said in an interview that his belief in Mr. Trump’s chances is genuine. “I really believe he’s going to prevail,” he said. “It’s a sense I have. Can I articulate perfectly why I thought he was going to win? No. But I’ll say the media has been wrong about him so many times.”
In fact, Mr. Biden won a decisive victory. Newsmax’s founder, Mr. Ruddy, contends that he is merely staying open-minded. “My view is that it’s an uphill battle for the president to change the vote, but he should be given the right to have a recount,” he said in an interview.
Newsmax is an unusual tribune for baseless accusations of voter fraud.
Mr. Ruddy is a longtime confidant of Mr. Trump and a member of his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. But he calls himself a “Reagan conservative,” belongs to no political party and is a friend of Bill Clinton — despite having built his career in part as a New York Post reporter who cast doubt on the investigation into the death of a Clinton aide, Vincent Foster. Mr. Ruddy later contributed large sums to the Clinton Foundation and has a photograph of himself with the former president on his wall.
The 12th of 14 children, Mr. Ruddy grew up on Long Island and attended the London School of Economics before founding Newsmax in 1998 as a conservative website. The TV network followed in 2014, originally positioned as a centrist alternative to Fox News.
These days, Newsmax is a cozy clubhouse for Trump allies who speak emphatically about a purported second term and have taken shots at Fox News. Mr. Kelly expressed his contempt on his Thursday episode after playing a clip of a Fox News White House correspondent, Kristin Fisher, calling claims by the Trump legal team “light on facts.”
“The nerve they have, the arrogance,” Mr. Kelly said.
Newsmax says it is available in more than 70 million households, but on many cable systems it is listed alongside obscure channels like Newsy, Cheddar and United Nations TV. (Newsmax is still more prominent than One America News, another network that Mr. Trump has promoted.) Mr. Kelly recently thanked viewers for their “deliberate effort” in finding the network.
Its Manhattan studio is bare-bones — Mr. Ruddy called his cable operation “fledgling” and suggested it did not yet turn a profit — and its visuals are more public access than prime-time, lacking the splashy graphics of better-financed rivals. Some of its guests have been shunned by other networks, like Mark Halperin, a political journalist accused of sexual misconduct. (Mr. Kelly was the subject of a sexual assault claim in 2012; prosecutors declined to file charges.)
Then, there are the technical snafus. Wednesday’s episode of “Greg Kelly Reports” opened with a blank screen. After 12 seconds, the host appeared, midsentence in a monologue.
None of this has stopped Mr. Kelly from now drawing an audience about four times larger than CNBC’s Shepard Smith, a former Fox News anchor whose heavily promoted new program airs against it at 7 p.m.
Fox News, which benefited enormously from Mr. Trump’s rise, easily beats Newsmax in overall viewership. But since the network called the race for Mr. Biden, Trump supporters have chanted “Fox News sucks!” at demonstrations in Arizona and Washington, and its ratings have fallen well below pre-election levels.
Much of the drop has come during daytime hours, when its news anchors acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory. But several Fox News opinion shows have seen a dip, too: Earlier this month, for the first time in 19 years, “Fox & Friends” drew a smaller weekly audience than MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The loss of viewers has set off alarm bells inside Fox News, said several people with ties to the network who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid straining relationships. A new slogan promoting its pro-Trump opinion hosts — “Standing Up For What’s Right” — is now in heavy rotation.
“There’s a ton of discontent with Fox News in conservative circles,” said Nicole Hemmer, a Columbia University scholar who studies right-wing media.
The tensions have spilled into Fox News programming. On “The Five,” Geraldo Rivera attacked a pro-Trump colleague, Jesse Watters, for endorsing baseless claims about a stolen election. In prime time, Tucker Carlson cast doubt on the claims of Sidney Powell, a Trump lawyer, saying she had failed to produce evidence of election fraud. But in the next hour, Mr. Hannity invited another Trump lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to share his baseless claims with viewers.
Fox News declined to comment. But the network remains a ratings goliath: This summer, its prime-time audience was not merely the largest on cable, but the largest across all of television. And many in the TV industry expect the network to thrive once Mr. Biden takes office, capitalizing on the same conservative “resistance” viewership that fueled its success during the Obama years.
Even if Newsmax is more willing to indulge the outlandish prospect that Mr. Trump can serve a second term, Mr. Ruddy said that Newsmax would not become, in his words, “Trumpmax.”
“I don’t see him becoming a partner in the company,” he said, adding that he doubted that Mr. Trump “would want to tether himself to one news organization.” A Trump-hosted talk show, he added, would be “terrific,” but he has not made a formal approach.
“He’s confident he has a good shot at winning, and I think he’s focused on that,” Mr. Ruddy said. “I wouldn’t want him to lose his focus.”
Batches of ballots that will be counted at different times, depending on the swing state. Twitter gadflies and foreign agents intent on sowing confusion. A president who has telegraphed for months that he may not accept results he deems unfavorable.
Television executives overseeing this year’s election night broadcasts are facing big challenges. And the world will be watching.
“Frankly, the well-being of the country depends on us being cautious, disciplined and unassailably correct,” said Noah Oppenheim, the NBC News president. “We are committed to getting this right.”
In interviews, the men and women in charge of network news coverage — the platform that tens of millions of Americans will turn to on Tuesday to make sense of a confusing vote count and learn the future of their country — made similar pledges.
Patience. Caution. And constant reassurance to viewers about the integrity of the results. “We have to be incredibly transparent all through the night with what we know and what we don’t know,” said George Stephanopoulos, who will anchor the proceedings for ABC News.
To accommodate the idiosyncrasies of this pandemic-era campaign, networks are planning tweaks to the way some election nights looked in the past.
Real-time results will be displayed in the context of the total expected vote, including the absentee and mail-in ballots that will account for a high proportion of it. The usual metric, “precincts reporting,” is tied to in-person votes on Election Day, which producers expect to be potentially misleading.
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The “decision desks,” the teams of data experts at news organizations who project results, say they are not competing over who calls a race first. “We’re preparing the audience that this might not be over in one night,” said Susan Zirinsky, the president of CBS News.
And combating misinformation — be it from online mischief-makers or falsehoods from the commander in chief — is a priority, particularly in educating Americans that any delays in declaring a victor stem from care, not chicanery.
“Just because a count may take longer does not mean that something is necessarily wrong,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. “It may not even mean that it’s a close race. We have to constantly remind the viewer that patience will be needed and this may take some time in critical states, and that doesn’t mean anything is untoward.”
That TV networks bear this burden is partly a symptom of the country’s broken information culture, in which partisan news sources and specious social media rumors can overwhelm careful journalism.
There is also open concern among Democrats that President Trump may seize on early returns and declare himself the victor, hoping that voters’ perceptions overwhelm reality.
“I don’t think we can censor the candidates,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. “But we have to be vigilant about putting whatever comments are made in context, with everything we know about where the race stands, where the law stands, where the votes are.”
Fox News, home to several of Mr. Trump’s most loyal media allies, will receive particular scrutiny. The network’s election telecast will be led by the anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, although pro-Trump opinion stars like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are likely to pop in occasionally, said Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News Media, who oversees news coverage.
Asked if he would put Mr. Trump on the air if the president dialed into the Fox control room on election night, Mr. Wallace said: “Honestly, we’d have to see what was going on.” But he called that scenario “unlikely,” in part because Mr. Trump’s preferred opinion hosts won’t be guiding the broadcast.
“I wouldn’t think he would call in, knowing that the squad is on that is on,” Mr. Wallace said. He added, “Whatever he were to say wouldn’t sway anything when it comes to what we’re counting.”
That was a reference to Fox News’s decision desk, which has a track record of independence and accuracy. Arnon Mishkin, the consultant who leads the operation, is known for holding his ground during an on-air confrontation in 2012 when the Republican strategist Karl Rove questioned his projection that Barack Obama would be re-elected. Mr. Mishkin, like vote counters at rival networks, will be sequestered from the anchor team on election night, an effort that news organizations say shields the decision desk from competitive pressures.
In 2018, Fox News was 50 minutes ahead of any other network in projecting that the Democrats would take control of the House of Representatives. (“I know a lot of listeners out there, their heads are exploding,” the anchor Chris Wallace told viewers.)
Each television network makes its own state-by-state projections. But the projections rely on raw voting data from a handful of shared sources.
One group of networks — ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC — collaborate on an exit-polling operation, administered by Edison Research. The Associated Press, which has an expansive vote-tracking effort, conducts its own count. Fox News, starting in 2018, relies on a proprietary model that draws from The A.P.
Besides the “magic wall” maps and flag-strewn graphics, the networks will trot out a few gizmos to keep viewers tuned in over what could be a long night — or week, or month. CBS News, for instance, is broadcasting from a recently built set overlooking Times Square, in the studio that housed MTV’s “Total Request Live.”
A poll by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that more than half of Americans thought it could take a week or longer to determine the results (although Mr. Trump declared on Twitter on Friday, “The Election should END on November 3rd”). Three-quarters of those surveyed said they expected some news outlets to “rush to announce a winner.”
Mr. Oppenheim, of NBC News, said he was keenly aware of his responsibilities. “It’s possible we will have a clear outcome on election night at a reasonable hour, and I don’t want the audience to be suspicious of that,” he said. “It’s possible we won’t have an outcome for several days, or several weeks.”
In 2000, when networks twice erroneously declared a winner in Florida, Mr. Oppenheim was working as a production assistant at MSNBC. “Those of us who have grown up in the last 20 years of television journalism understand that election nights can take any number of surprising directions,” he said. “Our job is to be prepared for all of them.”