Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity enter streaming fray as cord-cutting accelerates

Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," in a Fox News studio on March 2, 2017, in New York.
Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” in a Fox News studio on March 2, 2017, in New York.
(Richard Drew/AP)

As cable news begins to feel the squeeze from cord-cutting, arch-rivals Fox News and CNN are stepping up efforts to adapt to the trend that poses a long-term threat to their businesses.

For the first time, Fox News will make its most popular programming available online to consumers who don’t subscribe to cable.

The conservative news network announced Tuesday that its nightly prime-time opinion shows “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity” with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham’s “The Ingraham Angle” will be available to subscribers of its Fox Nation streaming service starting June 2.


The full episodes will be available on demand at 5 a.m. Eastern the day after they air on Fox News.

The move comes amid the steady overall decline in cable and satellite TV subscribers, who provide more than half of Fox News Channel’s revenue. Fox News Media is responsible for most of the profits generated by its parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp.

Fox News, which has never released subscriber data on Fox Nation, replaced its top executive in January, putting cable marketing veteran Jason Klarman in charge. But executives at the parent company say the service — which costs $5.99 a month — is growing.

In the company’s recent earnings call, Fox Corp. Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said subscription sign-ups have increased 40% since mid-February, when it offered original content featuring Carlson and a live stream of the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Comic-Con of right-wing conventions.

Fox News is not alone in recognizing the long-term financial pressure that cord-cutting poses. CNN also is ramping up its efforts to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming news channel separate from the feed received by cable customers.

The network owned by WarnerMedia has been soliciting program ideas from its producers and talked with agents about hiring on-air talent for the new direct-to-consumer video service, according to people involved with the discussions not authorized to comment. Some of CNN’s big names are expected to be part of the new channel as well.


CNN management has been moving slowly in planning a direct-to-consumer service, but activity has picked up since AT&T announced that WarnerMedia will be merged with Discovery Inc. Many people in the TV news business believe CNN President Jeff Zucker will stay with the new company instead of departing when his contract is up at the end of this year.

In a company-wide meeting held Tuesday, Zucker said the new direct-to-consumer service will be launched within the next year, according to one staff member who attended and who was not authorized to comment.

A CNN representative declined to comment.

Cable subscriber revenue is particularly important to Fox News as most major national advertisers steer clear of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the network’s highest-rated program, due to some of the host’s inflammatory comments about immigration and the Black Lives Matter movement. (Demand for commercials on the rest of the Fox News lineup remains strong as executives recently said the network is on track for its best ad revenue year in its history.) The revenue source is important for CNN and NBCUniversal’s MSNBC as well.

The Denver-based start-up Frndly TV is already profitable from consumers seeking a cheaper, “family-friendly” alternative to cable.

May 25, 2021

The Fox News-owned streaming service Fox Nation was launched in November 2018 to give the channel a foothold in the streaming business. It started as a sort of Netflix for conservatives aimed at the Fox News super fan, with hosts such as Tomi Lahren doing live talk programming similar to the opinion shows on the network, and offering polemical programs with correspondent Lara Logan.

About a year in, Fox Nation moved more into taped programming, with celebrations of Americana, historical documentaries and true crime shows. It carries acquired entertainment programs as well, such as Elvis Presley’s 1968 comeback special.

But in recent months Fox Nation has been aligning more with the Fox News Channel, which has the highest ratings in all of cable TV, according to Nielsen. In February, the service launched “Tucker Carlson Originals,” a documentary-style series, which includes an an episode with the host joyously wielding an AR-15 at a shooting range.


In April, Fox Nation added “Tucker Carlson Today,” a thrice-weekly video podcast where Carlson has extended conversations with conservative thought leaders and newsmakers. Piers Morgan did a lengthy sit-down on the program after he departed his morning TV show in Britain following his criticisms of Meghan Markle.

This week, Fox Nation began streaming an in-studio video feed of the nationally syndicated radio program of conservative commentator Dan Bongino, who will have a weekend show on Fox News Channel starting in June. The service also carries a simulcast of Hannity’s radio program.