Newsmax is no longer on DirecTV, as the satellite video provider today said it decided not to renew an expiring deal because of Newsmax’s money demands.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” DirecTV said in a statement provided to Ars. (AT&T owns 70 percent of DirecTV.)
The carriage deal expired at midnight last night. The “rate increase” demanded by Newsmax was actually from a base of $0 because DirecTV didn’t have to pay Newsmax to carry the network under their now-expired deal, a DirecTV spokesperson told Ars. DirecTV says it was one of the first pay-TV providers to carry Newsmax starting in 2014.
While DirecTV described it as a financial decision, Newsmax accused DirecTV of discrimination and censorship. “This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in an article on the Newsmax website titled, “AT&T’s DirecTV Cancels Newsmax in Censorship Move.”
Republican lawmakers express outrage
DirecTV previously dropped One America News when its contract with that network expired in April 2022. “The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed,” Ruddy said.
OAN sued DirecTV but lost a key ruling when a California judge said its deal with DirecTV did not entitle it to a renewal. The OAN and Newsmax nonrenewals were met with outrage from Republican lawmakers.
Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and 41 other Republican members of Congress last week sent a letter to the CEOs of AT&T and DirecTV claiming that DirecTV appears to be “actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system.” The letter suggested the Newsmax decision is part of what Republicans called an “un-democratic assault on free speech” orchestrated by congressional Democrats and the White House in coordination with private companies.
The Republicans’ letter asked DirecTV to provide information on viewership ratings of Newsmax and liberal news channels and details on “the corresponding fees paid by your company to these networks.”
DirecTV responded to the lawmakers with a letter on Monday. DirecTV said Nielsen data shows that “Newsmax’s average household audience is only 101,000 households [nationwide], representing less than 0.1 percent of total TV households. That is 92 percent lower than Fox News. If Newsmax ceases to authorize our carriage of their channel, our customers will still have access to their clearly preferred conservative news channel, Fox News, which has more viewers than MSNBC, CNN and Newsmax combined.”
Newsmax ending its free stream
DirecTV also said that Newsmax is “distributed online on popular streaming platforms for no charge, including to viewers who do not have a Pay TV subscription.”
“Newsmax proposes to change this model,” DirecTV told Republicans. “In effect, it has stated that if DirecTV and other Pay TV operators will pay it the fees it wants, then it will cease transmitting its current channel to the 55 million US households that don’t have a Pay TV service. In other words, 55 million US households would no longer be able to access Newsmax in its current form unless they acquire a Pay TV subscription. Under this change in model, who’s doing the de-platforming? Certainly not DirecTV.”
The Newsmax article accusing DirecTV of censorship seems to confirm that, until recently, no TV service providers had agreed to pay for the channel. It said:
DirecTV falsely claimed to media outlets that Newsmax is asking for a fee but still wants to keep a free stream on OTT platforms (over-the-top service is a type of service offered directly to viewers). But this is false; no operator pays a fee while Newsmax streams free and DirecTV was fully aware the free stream will end this year.
Newsmax said it was able to agree on a “modest fee” with three cable providers last year and that it is “watched by 25 million Americans on cable alone.”
“DirecTV pays cable license fees to all top 75 cable channels and to all 22 liberal news and information channels it carries,” Newsmax said. “Almost all of these channels are paid hefty license fees significantly more than Newsmax was seeking—and despite the fact that most of the channels have much lower ratings than Newsmax.”
Newsmax urged viewers “to contact their members of Congress and senators to oppose censorship of Newsmax and demand support for fairness and equity for conservative media.”
In February 2021, US Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) questioned DirecTV-owner AT&T and other TV providers about why they carry OAN, Newsmax, and Fox News.
“As a violent mob was breaching the doors of the Capitol [during the January 6 attack], Newsmax’s coverage called the scene a ‘sort of a romantic idea,'” the Eshoo/McNerney letter said. It also said that “Newsmax has amplified allegations that members of the Chinese Communist Party helped to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.”