The win, fueled by conservative viewers who are disappointed by the election results, happened Monday evening. In the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic prized by advertisers, “Greg Kelly Reports” on Newsmax out-rated “The Story with Martha MacCallum” on Fox.
The margin was narrow — Kelly averaged 229,000 viewers in the demo and MacCallum averaged 203,000 — but it is still a milestone in the cable news industry.
Before the election, Newsmax was not regarded as a formidable competitor to Fox; it was mostly dismissed as one of a handful of wannabe challengers.
But President Trump’s loss on November 3 changed the cable TV calculus. Viewers who were frustrated when Fox admitted the truth of Trump’s loss sought other options. Trump encouraged them to try Newsmax.
Newsmax — and Kelly in particular — offered a safe space in which Biden was not called president-elect and Trump was not yet defeated.
His 7 p.m. program consists of long, pro-Trump, anti-media commentaries of the type typically found later in the evening on Fox. And a certain subset of viewers are rewarding him for it. Kelly’s show is usually Newsmax’s highest-rated show of the day.
“We’re here to stay,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said Tuesday evening. “The ratings are showing that.”
Fox News is still four times higher-rated than Newsmax at any given time of day, according to Nielsen. Among viewers of all ages, Fox averaged 1.36 million viewers around the clock on Monday, while Newsmax averaged 316,000 viewers.
But Fox is down from its pre-election highs while Newsmax is way up.
Take Kelly’s hour: Before the election, his show barely had a heartbeat. The 7 p.m. hour had barely 10,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo and 100,000 viewers overall, according to Nielsen data.
Now the hour has nearly a million viewers on a good night, and Monday was good: 949,000 viewers.
Ruddy pointed out that Newsmax TV is also live-streamed on a variety of platforms, so there is an additional audience that is not measured by Nielsen.
In the 7 p.m. hour, Newsmax ranked third overall, behind CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” which averaged 423,000 viewers in the demo on Monday, and MSNBC’s “The ReidOut,” which had 280,000.
The 25-54 demo is critical because most advertising on cable news networks is bought and sold using demographic ratings.
Newsmax seems to be cutting into Fox’s demo performance at some other times of day, though it’s hard to say for sure.
At 4 p.m. on Monday, for example, “The Howie Carr Show” on Newsmax averaged 101,000 in the demo, while “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on Fox averaged 148,000 in the demo.
One hour later, the gap between the two channels was much wider: “The Chris Salcedo Show” on Newsmax averaged 120,000 while “The Five” on Fox attracted 303,000.
What’s the main difference? “The Five” is an intense right-wing talk show while Cavuto’s 4 p.m. hour is less ideological. Fox’s more opinionated shows outperform its newscasts, even when the newscasts are stacked with conservative guests and storylines.
Newsmax maxes out on talk shows, not newscasts. In the coming weeks, Ruddy said, Newsmax will continue to expand its programming schedule, including a 10 p.m. program led by Rob Schmitt, a former early morning host on Fox.
Ruddy is still brainstorming options for the 9 p.m. hour.
It must be emphasized that Fox is still far ahead of Newsmax by almost every conceivable metric.
But Fox is accustomed to being No. 1 in the 25-54 demo so losing to Newsmax, even for one hour of one day, is a serious shock.
Fox Corp. chief financial officer Steve Tomsic addressed the competition at a financial conference earlier in the day Tuesday. He mentioned Newsmax and One America News by name.
“I think when people think about competition, they sort of, their knee jerk reaction is to think, ‘well all we need is two or three talking heads to go head to head with ours.’ The business is much bigger than that,” Tomsic said, including news coverage and digital properties.
He described Fox News as a business “that has stood the test of time, and every time there’s been skepticism about what the future looks like, we’ve pierced through and hit another high.”
“So,” he said, “we feel super confident about Fox News being able to compete in any environment going forward.”