Editor's Corner—Fox Nation, Entertainment Tonight and the incoming news streaming wars

The SVOD market has room for news streaming services, but they may quickly be fighting for the same audiences. (Image: Unsplash)

For anyone interested, streaming news is available in abundance. This year will see networks taking their news brands further over the top and popular cable networks branching out into standalone SVOD services.

Both CBS and Fox News have big plans for streaming news this year. CBS will turn both CBS Sports and Entertainment Tonight into ad-supported streaming services, and Fox News will launch Fox Nation, a subscription service that expands the Fox News programming universe. And it seems at least plausible that Fox News’s move could draw out similar responses from competitors CNN and MSNBC.

The market likely has room for each to operate, and there could be some potential for consumers who opt for more than one of these upcoming services. But there’s also a chance that each service will be fighting for the same audiences, which is certainly the more fun scenario to consider. So let’s take a look at how they stack up against each other.

CBS Sports HQ and Entertainment Tonight

As previously disclosed, CBS is growing its stack of streaming news channels to include CBS Sports HQ and Entertainment Tonight and piggybacking both brands off the foundation is built with CBSN, its 24/7 streaming news network.

CBS CEO Les Moonves said during the company’s most recent earnings call that Sports HQ will launch right before the NCAA March Madness tournament. CBS Interactive president and COO Marc Debevoise said in October 2017 that the service will de-emphasize live sports and focus instead on news and talk. He said the opportunity for that kind of sports content will be big as long as the service can stand behind the CBS name and reach consumers on mobile devices.

Moonves said that the Entertainment Tonight streaming service will launch in the fall and appeal to the “tremendous appetite for entertainment news.”

Both services will follow the playbook of CBSN, which launched in 2014 and which CBS has been growing, increasing its streams by 38% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2017. The service provides a mix of CBS News simulcasts, original programming, news updates and catch-up viewing of CBS programs like “60 Minutes” and “CBS Evening News.” It’s ad-supported and works across web as well as Android, iOS, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and multiple game consoles. CBSN is also available as part of CBS’s subscription streaming service, All Access.

Odds they will succeed: If both services are nurtured for as long as CBSN, it’s likely both will grow substantially. And within CBS, there may be other metrics for success beside standard points like ad revenue and subscriber bases. Moonves said the new platforms will have better economics that broadcast TV and will allow CBS to cross-promote its direct-to-consumer services, “converting viewers on our ad-supported platforms into paying subscribers.”

Fox Nation

Fox News this week confirmed the imminent launch of its own subscription streaming “opinion platform” called Fox Nation. The service is coming in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the price has yet to be determined, but Fox News has offered some details about what users can expect.

Fox Nation will include live exclusive daily streaming content and long-form programming along with access to exclusive events and 20-plus years of archival Fox News programming. The service will also rely some on appearances from Fox News’s current opinion hosts and personalities.

The model Fox News is using in creating an SVOD that supplements but doesn’t overlap its linear network, is similar to what ESPN is doing this year with the launch of ESPN+.

John Finley, senior vice president of development and production at Fox News, told the New York Times that the service will be for “the superfan…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.”

Odds it will succeed: Fox News is a categorical success on cable TV, averaging 2.5 million in primetime total viewers. And it’s likely that at least some of those viewers would make the jump to the streaming platform as well. But according to Nielsen data from earlier this year, the median age for Fox News viewers is 65 years old. And according to data from IBB Consulting, streaming subscribers aged 60 or older are much less likely to subscribe to more than one or two services, meaning a Fox News streaming service could face stiff competition from Amazon, Hulu and Netflix for that age group’s streaming dollars. However, Fox News could attract younger viewers by launching a streaming platform to better meet them outside of the traditional pay TV ecosystem. Fox News is well ahead of both CNN and MSNBC in total day and primetime ratings for the 24-54 demo, according to Nielsen Media Research, and some of those younger viewers might be more willing to engage with a Fox News streaming service. So Fox Nation could be a smart move, particularly as pay-TV subscribers totals continue to dwindle.

Possible response from CNN and MSNBC

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are as competitive as they are ideologically different, so it makes sense for Fox News competitors to follow suit with their own SVODs, if only so the fight could continue in a different arena.

Like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are already streaming their live linear channels on various platforms including authenticated pay-TV apps and virtual MVPDs. But neither CNN nor MSNBC have ventured into standalone streaming territory yet.

Odds they will respond: CNN has dabbled in streaming original content. Last year it launched original content for its CNNgo app and also expanded its original content deal with streaming service Hulu. Considering the aggressive SVOD launch strategy of parent company Turner, it’s not a stretch to think CNN could assemble something similar to Fox Nation.

MSNBC has tried something like Fox Nation before. In 2014, the company launched MSNBC2, a streaming news channel targeting a younger audience. It was later renamed Shift and was eventually shut down. But MSNBC could learn from any missteps it made with Shift if it decides to jump back into the streaming news melee.—Ben | @fierce_video

This article was updated to include additional Nielsen ratings information about Fox News.