According to a new report in Variety, mobile downloads of Fox Corp’s streaming service Fox Nation ticked up around its livestream of Donald Trump’s first speech since leaving office and rollout of Tucker Carlson’s new show -- further evidence that the most extreme elements of the right continue to fuel Fox News. As Variety noted, “While mobile-centric metrics can’t account for viewing across all screens, it provides a glimpse of Fox Nation’s audience trends.”
In Fox’s most recent earnings call with investors, CEO Lachlan Murdoch touted Fox Nation’s growth near the beginning of his remarks, indicating that he believes the platform is an important feature of his business model.
Promoting Fox Nation’s growth is a relatively new talking point for Murdoch -- he mentioned Fox Nation only in passing in response to a question in the previous quarter’s earnings call, and the streaming service did not come up at all in the quarter prior to that.
As Variety reported, Murdoch cited the Conservative Political Action Conference at which Trump spoke and “the controversial Carlson as two of the reasons Fox Nation subs[cribers] had grown” during the previous quarter. Fox Nation was a sponsor of CPAC, and “offered a livestream of it, which saw former president Trump’s first public speech since leaving office.”
Concurrent with Fox Nation’s promotion of CPAC and the surge in mobile downloads was the rollout of Carlson’s massive expanded presence on the platform. As my colleague Matt Gertz noted in his recent profile of Carlson as the face of Fox News (emphasis added):
Carlson’s face became a ubiquitous presence on the network following the 2020 election. Fox began frequently injecting Carlson’s commentary into programs up and down the network lineup; since November, the network has aired clips from his shows in at least 134 weekday segments on other programs, and he’s made a dozen guest appearances. And earlier this year, he became the linchpin of Fox Nation, Fox’s streaming service. His new show airs three times a week, and the week it premiered, Fox gave him more than nine and a half hours of promotion on other programs.
The mobile download data provided by Apptopia, an analytics firm that measures performance of mobile apps, in Variety’s piece offers a glimpse into how the most radical elements of the right continue to fuel Fox’s growth in 2021, which Murdoch promises will continue to be a money maker for Wall Street.
This trend further illuminates Fox’s strategy -- growth driven by extremist, anti-democracy personalities like Trump and Carlson. And yet, reporting on outreach conducted to advertisers as part of the 2021 upfront season, in which major advertisers will decide whether they want to continue to partner with Fox, suggest they will try to hide this in their presentation to major advertisers -- downplaying Carlson and other divisive primetime personalities in favor of new opportunities for product placements on Fox News and Fox Nation shows. Instead, the network is promoting “lifestyle” programming on the app.