Satellite and streaming television provider DirecTV has removed conservative-oriented news channel Newsmax from its programming packages, a move that coincides with the expiration of a carriage agreement between the two companies.
The decision to drop Newsmax came after DirecTV officials said it was asked by the broadcaster to pay carriage fees in exchange for the right to carry the channel, which it said couldn’t be justified by Newsmax’s low viewership on its services. Previously, DirecTV offered Newsmax on a barter basis, offering it to customers without paying Newsmax anything in exchange for Newsmax reserving the entirety of its ad inventory for itself.
Like other programmers, DirecTV has faced increased pressure from broadcasters and customers over fees it must pay to carry local television stations and cable channels. Those fees are passed on to customers in the form of higher bills, spurring a practice among consumers known as “cord cutting,” or ditching cable and satellite for cheaper streaming options.
In this case, the decision to drop Newsmax has upset some conservative lawmakers, who claim DirecTV is “de-platforming” the network. The criticism comes nearly a year after DirecTV decided to stop carrying One America News Network, a similar conservative news channel.
Last week, nearly four dozen lawmakers sent a letter to DirecTV and its parent owners, AT&T and TPG Capital, urging it to reach an agreement to keep Newsmax on its services. But DirecTV said Newsmax’s demand for higher fees was a non-starter if the channel wanted continued distribution on satellite and DirecTV Stream.
“We’ve discussed with Newsmax on several occasions that we’d like to offer their programming, however, the network is now seeking significant fees that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” a spokesperson for the company said.
The spokesperson noted that Newsmax’s live channel is available on a number of streaming services for free. Those platforms include YouTube, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV and Haystack News (executives at Haystack News once told The Desk it focused mostly on non-partisan news outlets and local news; it later agreed to distribute Newsmax, despite controversy surrounding the channel).
Still, lawmakers are unwavering in their perspective that Newsmax should be carried on a private television service, because not doing so could stifle a conservative point of view that is apparently not reflected in other media.
“Newsmax is one of the most watched cable news channels in America; millions of people turn to Newsmax as a source of trusted information,” Rep. Wesley Hunt, a Republican lawmaker from Texas, wrote in his letter to AT&T and TPG Capital last week. (Nielsen ratings show Newsmax often places well behind Fox News, MSNBC and CNN among overall cable news viewers and in the key 25- to 54-year-olds demographic; it does routinely beat Nexstar’s upstart outlet, NewsNation, in the ratings.)
“I am sure that DirecTV will claim that removing Newsmax from their lineup of channels was purely a business decision, but that is hard to accept when liberal news channels like Vice Media continue to remain on the air,” Hunt continued. “Vice is a ratings failure for DirecTV, yet they continue to profit from their relationship with DirecTV.”
Vice TV is carried on DirecTV and other platforms as part of a broader distribution agreement with A+E Networks, which owns the flagship A&E channel as well as Lifetime and the History Channel.
A Newsmax report on the situation said DirecTV refused to pay carriage fees for the channel, “even though its pays 22 liberal news and information channels’ fees, many with ratings much lower than Newsmax.” The outlet didn’t say which news channels had lower ratings than Newmax; DirecTV carries far fewer than 22 cable news channels across its system.
Newsmax said three other cable systems agreed to its demand for carriage fees during retransmission negotiations within the last year.
Newsmax has launched a website, IWantNewsmax.com, where viewers are encouraged to complain to DirecTV for not carrying a channel that can currently be received online for free. On the website, Newsmax said its free stream will soon end, and a cable or satellite subscription will be the only way to watch the channel.