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Fox News Plans a Streaming Service for ‘Superfans’

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Thanks to a relentless news cycle — and a dedicated fan in the Oval Office — Fox News has defied the downward trends in the television business, notching its highest-rated year in 2017 even as audiences dwindled for many networks.

But the mass migration of viewers away from traditional cable and satellite packages is accelerating. And now Fox News is plotting a leap into the uncertain digital future that rivals like CNN have so far put off.

On Tuesday, Fox News is set to announce Fox Nation, a stand-alone subscription service available without a cable package. The streaming service, expected to start by the end of the year, would focus primarily on right-leaning commentary, with original shows and cameos by popular personalities like Sean Hannity.

It would not overlap with Fox News’s 24-hour cable broadcast — not even reruns — because of the channel’s contractual agreements with cable operators. Instead, the network is planning to develop hours of new daily programming with a mostly fresh slate of anchors and commentators.

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“Fox Nation is designed to appeal to the Fox superfan,” John Finley, who oversees program development and production for Fox News, said in an interview. “These are the folks who watch Fox News every night for hours at a time, the dedicated audience that really wants more of what we have to offer.”

Mr. Finley said the network was still discussing the cost of a subscription.

The Fox News venture joins an increasingly crowded — and increasingly niche — marketplace for web-only streaming television.

ESPN is starting its subscription service, ESPN Plus, in the spring. About five million viewers signed up last year for HBO and Cinemax digital subscriptions. Last week, CBS said it counted five million subscriptions to its CBS and Showtime streaming services, and it plans to add two more stand-alone products, CBS Sports HQ and an offering branded for “Entertainment Tonight.”

Fox Nation, depending on its popularity, may prove more consequential to the country’s political life than the average streaming service.

Fox News already commands the attention of President Trump and many voters in his base. The digital product would bring viewers an additional dose of opinion programming beyond staples like “Hannity” and “Fox & Friends.” Live events, like question-and-answer forums, would encourage more direct interaction with anchors and commentators.

Fox News viewers “value our product so much, they go to hotels and if they can’t have Fox, they send us emails. They go on cruises, and if they can’t have Fox, they send us emails,” Mr. Finley said. “This is a way for us to meet that demand.”

Whether the venture would be a moneymaker is up in the air.

Fox News reaps more than $1 billion in annual profit, providing ample funds to hire a new team for Fox Nation, which is not expected to initially carry advertising. Mr. Finley declined to estimate his start-up costs, and streaming services in conservative media have had a mixed record of success.

The Blaze, a web-only service founded by the host Glenn Beck in 2011 after he left Fox News, struggled to attract interest and eventually morphed into a more traditional network distributed by cable and satellite providers. Bill O’Reilly, who was fired by Fox News in April, started a subscription service on his website that has earned little attention.

Mr. Finley said Fox Nation was not comparable to a personality-driven product. “This is not starting from scratch here,” he said. “Glenn Beck had a ton of viewers when he was here on Fox. When he left, it didn’t seem to me that they followed him. People are loyal to the Fox brand.”

The median Fox News viewer is 65 years old, according to Nielsen, but the network points to its website traffic and heavy presence on Facebook and other social media platforms as evidence that a web-only service can appeal to its audience.

Among Fox News’s main rivals, MSNBC has no stand-alone product. CNN has a streaming service, CNNgo, which offers some free original programming, but it otherwise requires an existing cable or satellite subscription. Jeff Zucker, CNN’s president, said in December that he was considering a digital product for the channel’s “Great Big Story” brand, which is aimed at younger viewers.

Fox News, though, is facing some new competition on its conservative flank. The potential expansion of the Sinclair Broadcast Group may bring more conservative programming to local television stations. Peter Thiel, the technology investor and Trump supporter, is said to be interested in creating a right-leaning media organization based in Los Angeles.

Asked if Fox Nation was a response to pressures from cord-cutting and other industry trends, Mr. Finley said Fox News loyalists “are not cutting the cord anytime soon.”

“I don’t think this is about competing with our rivals. It’s about serving our audience,” he added. “We know who our audience is. We know what they want.”

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Here’s what it’s doing to tackle it

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A man with her protective face mask walks in Vellaces neighborhood after new restrictions came into force as Spain sees record daily coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, in Madrid, Spain on September 21, 2020. (Photo by Burak

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — There can be no doubt now that Europe is facing the much-feared “second wave” of coronavirus cases, after a lull in new infections in summer when severe restrictions on public life helped stop the spread of the virus.

Now, as cases rise rapidly in the region, various European nations are taking action in an effort to stop the surge in infections and prevent a significant rise in fatalities.

To date, there have been almost 2.9 million confirmed cases of the virus in Europe and over 186,000 people have died, data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Despite the risks, leaders in the region are reluctant to impose nationwide lockdowns again, given the economic and societal implications of such moves, and are now looking at more targeted, localized measures.

Here’s a snapshot of what Europe’s biggest economies are doing to stop the spread of the virus:

Spain

Spain has recorded 671,468 infections — the highest number in Europe, and 30,663 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. On Monday, it reported more than 30,000 new cases since Friday, Reuters reported.

Madrid has become a virus hotspot, with almost 800 new cases reported Monday. The surge has prompted the president of the city’s regional government to request help from the army to help battle the rise and parts of the capital have been put in lockdown, prompting protests.

On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said data showed that, in Madrid, “the infection rate is double the national level, the numbers of intensive care beds in use is three times the national level.” He signaled more stringent measures could be introduced in the city, saying it “demands its own plan,” El Pais reported

France

France has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe after Spain, with 496,974 infections to date and 31,346 deaths, JHU data notes. 

France reported 5,298 further cases on Monday from the previous day, a lower daily count due to the weekend data lag. Last Friday, France reported 13,215 new infections, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.

As a result of surging cases, the city of Lyon (France’s third-largest city) has introduced tighter restrictions, limiting public gatherings and prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol outdoors after 8pm, France 24 reported Monday. Visits to nursing home residents will also be restricted to two per week. Similar restrictions have already been imposed in other cities including Marseille and Bordeaux.

UK

The U.K. has also seen a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases over recent days, prompting the government to introduce localized lockdown measures in parts of northern England and more national restrictions. To date, the country has recorded just over 400,000 coronavirus cases and 41,877 deaths, according to the JHU.

On Monday, the government announced that bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m. Groups of more than six people are also not allowed to meet.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation at 8 p.m. local time Tuesday evening and is expected to announce further measures. He is also said to be considering a “mini” lockdown of two weeks to try to act as a “circuit-breaker” in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The government’s chief medical and scientific advisors warned on Monday that, without action, the U.K. could see up to 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day by mid-October, which could lead to 200-plus deaths per day by November.

Germany

Germany was praised for its initial response to the first wave of the coronavirus crisis. To date, Germany has recorded over 275,000 cases, but has reported fewer than 10,000 deaths, JHU data shows, a far lower number of fatalities than its European counterparts.

Nonetheless, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) shows that cases are rising, particularly in the cities of Munich and Hamburg.

On Tuesday, a further 1,821 new infections were registered after a rise of 922 cases reported Monday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly called for a crisis summit next week with regional governors, German media reported Monday.

Munich has tightened rules on face masks, which must now be worn in public, and contact restrictions. German Health Minister Jens Spahn has also said Germany will step up its testing regime as cases rise.

On Monday, the RKI called for “the entire population to be committed to infection control” by consistently observing rules of distance and hygiene, and advising that “crowds of people should be avoided if possible and celebrations should be limited to the closest circle of family and friends.”

Italy

Italy was the epicenter of Europe’s first outbreak in late winter, with the first outbreak in Europe appearing in the north of the country in February. To date, Italy has reported almost 300,000 cases and over 35,000 fatalities. 

Italy is also seeing a rise in new infections, but not at the rate of its neighbors. On Monday, for example, it reported 1,350 new cases in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Italian politicians are reluctant to return to a severe lockdown that saw Italians banned from leaving their homes for all but the most essential reasons.

Instead, Italy appears to be looking to test people arriving from other European virus hotspots. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post Monday that he had signed an order making it obligatory for people arriving in Italy “from Paris or other parts of France with significant circulation” of the coronavirus to be tested.

Speranza added that European data on Covid-19 “must not be underestimated,” and that while “Italy is better off than other countries … great prudence is still needed to avoid rendering the sacrifices made up to now in vain.”

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