Since it's time for New Year's predictions, here's one that is pretty much a sure bet: Fox News will dominate the cable ratings in 2015, just as it has for the past thirteen years. CNN will be a distant second, with MSNBC dragging up the rear, playing the role of the Washington Generals to FNC's Harlem Globetrotters.
Fox News may be the biggest media success story since the broadcast networks were formed in the 1950s. FNC crushes its competitors and is consistently near the top among all cable programs, not just news shows. Simply put, FNC is on fire, even after all these years. That raises two obvious questions. Why the big success? And why do so many media types and leftists (pardon the redundancy) absolutely loathe Fox?
The success part is twofold. There is no question that FNC leans to the right in that it gives conservative voices a prominent place on the air. Prior to Fox's inception, no other TV news operation did that. So conservative Americans tune in for long stretches, as do fair-minded Americans from the political middle.
More importantly, Fox News is never boring. There are smart hosts, provocative guests, and lively debates around the clock. FNC takes chances and does things differently, while many other news programs simply recite the days events or spend months droning on about one story. CNN did that in '14 when it obsessed over the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, while MSNBC devoted countless hours to Chris Christie and Bridgegate. After that "scandal" turned out to be much ado about very little, MSNBC's already-anemic ratings totally collapsed.
Of course, Fox News unleashes a special brand of deranged fury in its competitors and the ideologues running many of the nation's newspapers. They don't like the traditionalism and they seethe at the channel's success. Thus, on any given day, you can see scathing personal attacks on FNC and its hosts. Why the rage? After all, nobody is forced to watch. If you don't like Megyn, Sean, Bill, and Greta, the Food Network surely has something you'll find more appetizing.
A couple of months ago something very interesting happened when Americans went to the polls in the midterm elections. After casting their votes, many of them apparently settled in to watch Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and the crew report the results. Fairly and with balance. At 10 PM on election night Fox had 6.6 million viewers, far more than any of the traditional "big three" networks. Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC had about 3.5 million viewers … combined
After a year in which MSNBC's primetime audience dropped by 18%, Fox News now has more than triple the number of viewers. And the fact is that MSNBC's ratings can't get a whole lot lower. It is a cable channel that promotes left-wing causes and hands over one full hour each evening to America's most dishonest racial demagogue. Even the New York Times, MSNBC's ideological soul mate, recently pointed out that the network has sunk to new lows and has been surpassed by CNN. The slogan "Lean Forward" now seems like a big joke for a network that is moving backwards. Just this week MSNBC's boss conceded that it has been a "difficult year." Difficult? Jonathan Gruber, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, and Rolling Stone magazine had better years than MSNBC!
Meanwhile, Fox News has become an entrenched part of the national fabric, a vibrant network that influences the debate in this country. Way back in 1996, when the Fox News Channel was born, could anyone have guessed that it would become so successful? And … so despised?