Newsmax, Once Also-Ran Is Rising, and Trump Approves
A once-niche conservative cable network owned by a president's lifelong friend lures viewers by refusing to announce an electoral winner.
Flanked by Oval Office aids on Wednesday, President Trump dialed a news media buddy with a message: Keep up the good work.
"He said it's just incredible, the ratings you're getting, and everyone's talking about it," recalled Christopher Ruddy, Newsmax's creator, a niche-conservative cable network that has yet to announce a winner in presidential election 2020.
The network based in Boca Raton, Fla., has lo-fi production values and off-brand personalities like Sean Spicer, Diamond and Silk. Finding it can be a chore: it appears in some major markets on Channel 1115. But since Election Day, Newsmax has been a growing force in a conservative media sphere scrambled by Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s victory and Mr. Trump's refusal to concede.
Hundreds of thousands of new viewers have joined Newsmax shows that support debunked voter fraud allegations by the president and insist that Mr. Trump will retain the White House. Until recently, the network's top shows attracted 58,000 viewers. The network attracted its highest audience on Thursday night, earning 1.1 million viewers at 7 p.m.
Fox News — the No. 1 network in TV news and long the destination of choice for many Trump backers — has seen a rare dip in supremacy. Rating for the Rupert Murdoch-owned network has plummeted since election night, when his early projection that Mr. Biden had won Arizona angered Mr. Trump and his allies.
"CRASH's fantastic @FoxNews daytime ratings could get worse! "Friday's president tweeted.
"CRASH" is overstated: Fox News remains the most watched prime-time cable news network, averaging around 3.5 million viewers a week after the election. But the change underscores a volatility among conservative viewers, as Mr. Trump denies his loss.
Although Fox News is home to Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity, it also operates a decision desk and daytime news service that proclaimed President-elect Mr. Biden. That's what many Trump supporters don't want to hear, and Newsmax, which always tells viewers it hasn't projected a winner, rushes to offer an alternative.
"This whole idea of a president-elect is media manufacturing," Greg Kelly, 7 p.m. Newsmax host, said last week. "It'sn't over. This may transform." Mr. Kelly posted his highest ratings on Thursday, pulling 1.1 million viewers for his hour.
Mr. Kelly, a former Fox News reporter and son of Raymond W. Kelly, former New York City police chief, said in an interview that his confidence in Mr. Trump's chances is real. "I believe he'll prevail," he said. "It's my sense. Can I express perfectly why I thought he'd win? No No. But I'll say he's been wrong with the media too many times."
Mr. Biden claimed a decisive victory. Newsmax's creator, Mr. Ruddy, says he's only remaining open-minded. "I think it's an uphill battle for the president to change the vote, but he should have the right to recount," he said in an interview.