According to a source engaged in the discussions, "conservative fat cats" are talking very seriously about launching a rival to Fox News Network. The reports come amid continued internal turmoil within the solitary mainstream right-leaning news network, turmoil largely caused by external scrutiny over sexual harassment allegations directed at two high-profile figures and what appears to be a power shift at the top.
Rumors about a new conservative network really revved up on Friday when Mediaite's Rachel Stockman reported that a "well-placed source close to the proposal" told the outlet that "serious discussions are underway to create an alternative conservative cable network on the belief that the Fox News Network is moving too far to the left."
The source, who is engaged in the talks, says a meeting is planned for today with two prominent high-powered television executives, some underperforming conservative networks and people who have an interest and the ability to fund a new network.
So who exactly are the "two prominent high-powered television executives"? That's not yet clear, but Roger Ailes, the former CEO and chairman of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network who resigned in July 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations, was reportedly one of the key figures present at the meeting on Friday.
An unnamed television executive told Mediaite that he/she is personally working "hot and heavy" on the new, more conservative channel, which could be launched in the next 10 to 12 months. "It's live, it's real," the executive said.
Stockman offers a few ideas about the possible talent that might be tapped by a new network, including the recently fired O'Reilly, The Blaze's indefinitely suspended Tomi Lahren, and, perhaps, Sean Hannity, who openly expressed his concerns over reports that long-time Fox veteran and current co-president of FNC and FBN, Bill Shine is being forced out by James and Lachlan Murdoch. Mediaite also vaguely references various current executives within Fox News (presumably Bill Shine among them), who "might be lured by the new opportunity."
"The exact 'who' won’t be clear until the deal is more defined but the source says the pitch is that the network could immediately reach at least 85 million homes," writes Stockman.
The increasing influence of Rupert Murdoch's sons appears to be the driving force behind the purge of the "old guard" and the apparent leftward movement of the network, as the New York Times and New York Magazine's Gabe Sherman have suggested. And, as Axios notes, Fox News moving more to the center would not diminish the strong demand for conservative content that fueled its rise:
Audience demand doesn't shift from business-side pressures. We're watching Sinclair Broadcasting Group take strategic steps to fill that void at the local level, but if Fox goes more mainstream at the national level, there will almost certainly be a market opening for a new right-wing channel to gain some steam, at least before the cable business bubble bursts.
Stockman agrees, noting "analysts estimate that Fox News produced 25 percent of 21st Century Fox’s operating income last year or a whopping $6.6 billion." In other words, conservative news done well can be a "cash cow."