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Millions of Americans could be entering 2020 without Fox News, which is currently the most-watched cable network in the country. Thanks to extended contract disagreements between the overarching Fox company and a collection of smaller TV providers, Fox News and multiple Fox Sports channels could go dark for customers unless some rather large and quick changes go into effect.
Let's take a closer look at how Fox News enters into this story, and how it affects some cable TV customers.
Why Cable Customers Could Lose Fox News Soon
Fox is reportedly increasing the dollar signs tied to the collective bargaining agreement between the company and smaller cable TV providers. (As in, not DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, etc.) Some of those more localized cable companies have taken to social media to explain to customers that Fox's fee requests for its two Fox Sports channels have gotten more exorbitant than those of previous years, and are allegedly ten times the normal rate of inflation.
Such price hikes would seem to be a common occurrence that these smaller-scale cable companies have to regularly deal with, presumably factoring into why the companies are joining together to protest the current negotiations at play. Check out the telling tweet below from ALLO Communications, which services cities across Nebraska and Colorado.
Everyone in the U.S. can attest to the ridiculously soaring prices being charged by cable and satellite companies in the last two decades, with sports channels often being a cause for uproars. ESPN has famously been a thorn in many non-sports viewers' paws over the years due to its ironclad contracts making it a necessity in most packages. Fox clearly took notes from that playbook, and wisely coupled Fox News into the bargaining conversations, since the politically motivated channel is a bigger draw than the sports channels.
What Will Fix The Situation For Fox News Viewers?
The quickest fix would be for all the cable companies to agree to Fox's reported fee hikes, though that would likely then snowball into higher monthly fees for subscribers. Certainly not the most ideal solution for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, individual customers don't really have a lot of agency when it comes to agreements at this level, and the fact that it affects mostly non-national TV providers doesn't help to sway monolithic companies like Fox. Though it's possible a groundswell of support across the Internet could inspire Fox to rethink its contractual numbers, that's highly unlikely, especially this close to the December 31 deadline.
For consumers, the best bet might be to join the rest of the cord-cutters across the country by switching over to a different cable company or a cheaper streaming service that already has Fox News (along with FS1 and FS2) as part of its packaging. Of course, that doesn't help out any of the rural TV providers trying to fight against Fox, and would possibly cause the need for more price increases in the future. Barring any miracles, however, this is likely the direction things would move in anyway.
How Fox News And Fox Sports Did In Viewership Stats In 2019
It would appear Fox might want to start using its news outlet as the bargaining chip in these situations. Fox News, which said goodbye to longtime host Shepard Smith in 2019, was once again home for the biggest audiences in cable TV. What's more, it ended the year as the #5 most-watched channel in all of TV, coming in behind only the Big 4 broadcast networks. Impeachment coverage, along with everything else Donald Trump-related, even helped give Fox News a 1% growth over its numbers from 2018.
On the flip side, Fox's sports outlets took a dive in 2019, which is likely partially fueled by Fox Sports losing the rights to UFC events, with ESPN signing a huge multi-year deal to host the MMA company's fight cards across both linear TV and streaming. FS1 was down 9% in viewers from 2018 to 2019, but FS2 took a much more massive hit, with a whopping 50% decline in viewers from year to year.
Considering 2020 is an election year, Fox News will likely gain just as many viewers, if not more, with its non-stop coverage. So hopefully for audiences, some kind of beneficial deal will get brokered between Fox and the various cable companies across the U.S. While waiting to hear more about the deal, check out our Winter and Spring 2020 TV schedule to see what's hitting the small screen elsewhere, and check out the big screen release Bombshell for a look at the controversies hitting Fox News over the years.