New York (CNN Business)”Fox News sucks! Fox News sucks! Fox News sucks!”
Those words were chanted in the streets of Washington, DC, this past weekend — not by hordes of angry liberals but by disenchanted supporters of President Donald Trump.For more than two decades, Fox News has conditioned its audience to distrust news that collides with its worldview or theirs. Inconvenient facts have been dismissed and blamed on the “liberal media” or the “deep state” or one of the many other boogeymen favored by the right at any particular time. Fox News has never seen competition like thisBut now that strategy could be catching up to the conservative cable channel, with rising competition from networks such as Newsmax and OAN, which have positioned themselves as Trumpier than Fox.Indeed, Fox finds itself in a precarious position. Read MoreOn one hand, the network needs to maintain a semblance of having a serious news operation and its news anchors have acknowledged the reality that Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. On the other hand, the acknowledgment of reality is angering Fox’s audience, some members of which are refusing to accept the truth of the matter and rebelling when it is force-fed to them. And Trump, who is livid at Fox for calling Arizona for Biden on Election Night and for not supporting him as slavishly as he would like, has been encouraging those viewers to change the channel and tune into Newsmax or OAN. Compounding the problem, the propagandists on Fox, like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, continue to undercut their own network’s reporting by ludicrously suggesting that Trump could be correct to assert that something nefarious did actually take place to rig the election in favor of Biden.It is morphing into a real problem for Fox. In recent days, the Trump-friendly Newsmax — which, unlike Fox, has not acknowledged Biden as President-elect — has for the first time in its history been successful in peeling away a chunk of the audience that would normally tune into Fox’s newscasts. Shows on Newsmax that were averaging less than 100,000 viewers are now amassing audiences several times as large. Last week, one show even crossed over one million viewers.It’s unclear how long this trend will hold and it could very well be a short-lived phase. It is also worth noting that, even as Newsmax rips away some of its views, Fox continues to enjoy a dominant position in the conservative news market. But Fox does appear to be reacting to the challenge. It recently launched promotional spots touting the network’s pro-Trump prime time lineup attacking the legitimacy of the elections, with a narrator declaring the hosts are “speaking up for you.”All that said, it’s also worth noting that Fox has armed its rivals with the very instruments they are using against it. Fox has primed viewers to distrust journalists and it has disseminated disinformation and promoted conspiracy theories that support the President. Now, Trump and these fledgling networks are wielding these tactics like a weapon against Fox. In some cases they’re also using former Fox personalities against them.Newsmax hosts “Diamond & Silk,” who previously hosted a show on Fox’s streaming service, insisted Monday that Biden is “NOT the President” and said, “Somebody should let the left-wing media, including Fox News, know!”Greg Kelly, another Newsmax host who was previously a “Fox & Friends” host, said Monday on his show, “This is not over. Ignore what the mainstream media is telling you right now.”If Fox executives are frustrated or perplexed by a the portion of their audience protesting the channel, they need only to look in the mirror to understand who bears the main share of the responsibility.