For All The Hype, Trump's Favorite 'News' Channel (OAN) Faces Shrinking Footprint
from the dysfunction-junction dept
The President’s favorite sycophancy channel, OAN (One America News) has seen no shortage of headlines in the recent weeks for its dubious “news” programming. Said programming has included claims that elderly people are Antifa agitators, that the coronavirus was created in a North Carolina lab as part of a “deep state” plot, all while banning polls that dare to suggest that dear leader may not be doing all that hot in the wake of corruption, incompetence, and a raging pandemic. That’s before you get to media allegations that the outlet has some uncomfortable parallels to Russian state TV.
But the people hyperventilating over the network’s Trumpist disinformation and pole position in the White House briefing room often forget to mention that the channel doesn’t actually have all that many viewers. While the channel currently reaches 35 million potential households (notably fewer actually watch), that’s a far cry from the 119 million TV households that have access to major news networks like CNN and Fox News. Major cable TV providers like Dish, Charter, and Comcast don’t carry the channel at all, leaving Verizon and AT&T as the only major cable TV providers that think it’s worth it.
And even that could be changing. The company’s contract with AT&T/DirecTV, first signed in 2017 and expiring in 2021, could be in trouble. Most notably because of the tough terms affixed to carriage at a time when cable providers are already being pushed to cut expensive dead weight due to cord cutting:
“One hurdle to getting carried by other major TV providers may be OAN?s contract with DirecTV. Under the terms, DirecTV is required to make OAN available to 85% of its subscribers, and the channel must seek the same arrangement with other pay-TV companies, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. In addition, OAN and its sister channel, AWE, which stands for ?A Wealth of Entertainment,? charge pay-TV providers a monthly fee of about 15 cents per subscriber, according to Herring.”
Cable providers have been cutting dead channel weight for several years as they work to try and cut their own costs — to in turn prevent more cable TV customers from cutting cable TV out of their diet entirely (it’s not really working). Sources told Bloomberg those conditions are likely too onerous for AT&T/DirecTV, and if that falls apart, OAN would lose access to yet another 19 million US households:
“Together, those provisions may be too onerous to entice big cable-TV providers to carry the network, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the contract is private. And OAN will have a large chunk of its audience at stake when it negotiates a contract renewal with AT&T, which has about 19 million pay-TV customers.”
OAN, to this point, has tried to frame AT&T’s decision to carry disinformation as an act of bravery:
“We are very pleased that AT&T seems to want to offer programming for everybody and not just people with one viewpoint,” he said.
But if you’re familiar with AT&T, you know it’s not about bravery, it’s about profitability. The company is swimming in debt from a recent slate of megamergers and losing customers hand over fist due to debt-recouping rate hikes. It’s in the process of firing employees en masse (despite a parade of huge favors from the Trump administration), and examining every opportunity to save a buck. Combine that with growing OAN criticism and the potential for a looming political sea change, and concerns that OAN is on the cusp of being a major league media player don’t appear entirely warranted.