Struggling satellite provider drops conservative news channel as contract expires
In a dispute that only came to light Tuesday afternoon, DirecTV dropped conservative-leaning news channel NewsMax at 10:59 p.m. Central Time the same day, as as the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement. The dispute centered on NewsMax demanding a large carriage fee from DirecTV as it was carried for free and also being streamed for free online. The news of the dropping was first reported by The Daily Beast.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV spokesperson told the publication minutes after it was dropped from the service.
One factor in the impasse was NewsMax’s availability on numerous online platforms. “Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”, said the spokesperson. NewsMax is also available as a FAST channel on Samsung TV Plus, Pluto TV, Xumo, Freevee, and Redbox, among others.
Not surprisingly, conservative politicians weren’t happy and are now threatening to hold hearings, given the House is now controlled by Republicans. On Monday, Texas Republican House Representative Wesley Hunt sent a letter to DirecTV opposing to the move which saw DirecTV drop another conservative news channel, One America Network News last year due to low viewership. The letter was signed by forty members of Congress.
Playing to Republicans on Capitol Hill, NewsMax CEO Chris Ruddy also criticized the decision, accusing DirecTV of “colluding” with Democrats to remove right-wing networks noting the service carries eleven liberal cable news networks, some with a fraction of the ratings. Ruddy also said DirecTV was lying when it said it was demanding carriage fees for its streamed content. NewsMax generally ranks fourth among cable news networks, behind leader Fox News but ahead of upstart NewsNation. The channel reached its ratings peak during the 2020 election season, when President Donald Trump ran for re-election and carried his speeches.
DirecTV denied the allegations, saying its decisions are driven by economics, not ideology.
The move could have further repercussions in Washington. For one, there has been talk of Dish possibly acquiring DirecTV from owners AT&T and TPG as the cable/satellite TV ecosystem continues to shrink. But now, any potential merger between the two could be blocked by House Republicans – not on anti-trust grounds, but on fairness of viewpoints as they’ll likely urge fellow Republicans on the FCC to reject any deal unless conditions are agreed to. For the last few years, conservatives have complained about social media censoring their viewpoints and want the Section 230 section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act repealed, which shielded computer companies from libelous statements made by users as now the scrutiny could extend to cable and satellite providers.
With Republicans now running the House, we could see more television executives dragged onto Capitol Hill, probing everything from “woke” content to censoring conservative viewpoints as we’ve seen this before with hearings on television violence, violent rock music lyrics, and the fallout from 2004’s Super Bowl halftime debacle. Add NewsMax’s deletion from DirecTV to the ever-growing list of the never-ending culture wars.