Speculation that Donald Trump will parlay all the attention his presidential run has received into a television network has been rampant ever since he began dominating the Republican primary race last year. Last night, after Trump basically ran his own broadcast of the third presidential debate via Facebook live, the speculation got breathless.
“If you’re tired of biased, mainstream media reporting (otherwise known as Crooked Hillary’s super PAC), tune into my Facebook Live broadcast,” Trump told his audience. And tune in they did. The nearly four hours of coverage had racked up 8.9 million views by Thursday afternoon.
While Trump hasn’t even lost the election yet (and may not concede even if he does), many saw the announcement as the former reality television star telegraphing his next move.
“Donald Trump basically launched his media company on debate night,” was the headline of an article written by the Independent Journal Review’s Hunter Schwarz early Thursday morning. “Trump TV is definitely coming,” wrote Matthew Sheffield at Salon.
While Trump has denied that he is interested in setting up a media company, the Financial Times last week reported that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was already shopping the idea of a Trump-branded network to potential financial backers. Now, a new finding from the YouGov Brand Index suggests that if the plan was to steal market share from the conservative-friendly Fox News Channel, the timing couldn’t be much better.
The go-to source of news and information for Republicans, and a dominant presence on cable television, Fox News has been taking a beating recently in the way its core constituency, Republican voters, view it.
The YouGov Brand Index, which tracks public perception of brands on a daily basis, also puts out what it calls its Red/Blue Brand Rankings every year, which monitors the top-rated brands among people who self-identify as Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Two years ago, Fox News was a favorite among GOP voters, coming in at No. 10 on the list of best-perceived brands. That ranking dropped to 15th in 2015, and this year plummeted all the way to number 50.
It’s unclear what has caused the precipitous drop in Fox News Channel’s status among Republicans, but it could well be tied to an increasing dissatisfaction — driven in large part by Trump himself — with the Republican Party establishment among rank-and-file GOP voters. Fox has for years been viewed as almost an appendage of the Republican Party, and it may be suffering related reputational damage.
If Trump were to launch himself into the media world, the likeliest vehicle would be a network heavy on relatively inexpensive public affairs programming — political talk shows and the like — that could piggyback on the name recognition of the most recent Republican presidential nominee.
It would naturally put Trump’s venture in direct competition with Fox News, currently the biggest player in cable news by audience size. That would normally be a daunting prospect, but if the YouGov numbers really indicate growing dissatisfaction with Fox among Republicans, the timing for a challenge from Trump TV might be perfect.