As GBTV Readies for Launch, the Challenge of Influence Looms for Beck

By Alex Weprin Comment

In Bloomberg Businessweek, Devin Leonard writes about former Fox News host Glenn Beck’s GBTV, which effectively begins its next phase with the launch of “The Glenn Beck Show” next week.

Leonard notes that with his new venture, Beck runs the risk of falling out of influence, or even into obscurity, unless he is able to change in a significant way people consume media:

The idea that a popular media personality like Beck can frictionlessly redirect his audience to a less traditional platform has been challenged of late. Howard Stern went from ubiquity to relative obscurity in 2005 when he left terrestrial radio for the subscription satellite kind. Oprah Winfrey is struggling to retain viewers after ending her ABC talk show and launching her OWN cable network. And former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann is having similar difficulties at independent broadcaster CurrentTV. Along with the inevitable audience dropoffs, all three have found themselves struggling to inject their personalities into the culture and conversation the way they did when media conglomerates were blasting their messages out into the world.

At Fox, Beck enjoyed widespread popular attention, not all of it positive. In addition to tossing bouquets to conservatives and urging listeners to stockpile gold, he sought out controversy like a canny shockjock. He made statements that he would later retract—like his claim that Obama harbored a “deep-seated hatred for white people,” and validated Internet rumors that FEMA might be building “concentration camps” by repeating and then “debunking” them. Beck frequently reminds his fans and his critics not to take him too seriously. “I’m a rodeo clown,” he has often said.

Of course, GBTV is not Beck’s only outlet. He still has his extremely influential radio show, as well as a number of websites such as The Blaze, which draw millions of visitors every month. His books continue to be best-sellers, and the first book out of book imprint became a best-seller. In other words, while TV is certainly important, Beck has a more diverse portfolio than many other media personalities.