Analysis: Political Polarization Bleeds Into Cable Fees Dispute

By Mark Mwachiro 

It used to be that when a TV network and a cable/satellite TV provider did not see eye to eye when it came to the renewal of carriage fees, messages would be blasted across TV screens and in print ads letting subscribers know who was at fault and who they should call to demand that their favorite channel be brought back to their lineup.

Such disputes typically involved two parties – the channel provider and the channel distributor, but with the Newsmax and DirecTV dispute, a new party was brought into the game, politicians.

Since January, Newsmax and DirecTV have been involved in a carriage fee dispute after the two companies failed to come to terms on a new carriage deal, which would have seen Newsmax getting a carriage fee not far off from what other prominent cable news networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC receive.


DirecTV does not pay carriage fees to up-and-coming TV channels seeking a wider audience. It viewed Newsmax as this and led a typical business dispute to morph into a political firestorm.

In a lengthy piece for Fortune, former CNN Reliable Sources anchor Brian Stelter details how Newsmax, through its CEO Chris Ruddy deployed GOP politicians to fight its battle with DirecTV.

Stelter writes that Newsmax took its fight with DirecTV, “mobilized its GOP allies, and recast a simple dispute as “censorship.” It’s proof that political polarization can upend every corner of the business world.”

Also recruited to this fight was former president Donald Trump, who, according to Stelter, “went after DirecTV’s part-owner AT&T at a recent event with supporters and blamed “radical left people” for DirecTV’s removal of both One America News and Newsmax. They “actually both get very good ratings,” he claimed.

That’s false. In February 2023, Newsmax finished a distant fourth among the cable news networks in total primetime viewers and No. 68 on all of basic cable, edging NewsNation by only +7,000 (106,000 vs. 99,000), per Nielsen live plus same day data. Additionally, Newsmax averaged fewer total day viewers and Adults 25-54 in February than NewsNation. As for OAN, it isn’t even Nielsen-rated.

Still, as Stelter explained, it did show how Newsmax was tapping into the emotions of the conservative base and leveraging that to make it feel like conservatives are being “targeted.”

“They feel like they are being canceled, “ he wrote.

Stelter explains that Newsmax is using conservative emotion as a bargaining tool in its quest to get DirecTV to pay it a carriage fee.

We shall soon find out how successful that tactic is, as Stelter pointed out that the two sides are progressing toward a deal.


*This is a TVNewser analysis piece.