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Fox News Goes Over the Top With Streaming ‘Fox Nation’

Tomi Lahren, a rising presence on Fox News Channel, has ambitious plans — but Fox News viewers might not get to see any of them.

The conservative commentator will soon deliver twice-daily takes on national issues that move her. She is making visits to the U.S. border, the better to tell real-life stories on video of the U.S. officials who patrol it. And she wants to hold long-form interviews with newsmakers and celebrities who wouldn’t normally consider a sit-down with a Fox News personality — including comedien Kathy Griffin and activist Colin Kaepernick. “This is an opportunity for me to really sound off,” she says.

The reason core viewers could be left out: to get Lahren’s latest, they’ll have to subscribe to a digital offering — Fox Nation.

CNN and the news divisions of NBC, ABC and CBS have all dipped their toe into live-streaming, the better to reach consumers who increasingly go to their smartphone or click at their desktop for video entertainment and information. Fox Nation, a subscription video-on-demand service that launches Nov. 27 and carries a monthly fee of $5.99, seems like part of that parade — but Fox News executives don’t feel they’re late to the party.

“Frankly, I think what we are going to offer is different,” says John Finley, senior vice president of development and production, sitting in a new studio at Fox News’ New York headquarters that will serve as home to Fox Nation programs like “Dana Perino’s Book Club” and “Un-PC,” hosted by Britt McHenry and comedian Tyrus.

If you were to call the new service a “Netflix for conservatives,” Finley says he wouldn’t mind. “I’ve been comparing it to a mix between Netflix and Facebook Live,” he adds. “Netflix doesn’t have a live component.”

Fox Nation isn’t aimed at delivering the latest reports or showcasing a new Fox News interview with President Donald Trump. Instead, it’s a place for hours of opinion programming, documentaries, Fox News archives and even a few surprises (“Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy has a cooking show on the service).  “We are limited on the news channel by 24 hours a day and seven days a week. There are only so many programs you can show,” Finley says. “We don’t have any of those constraints at Fox Nation.”

Fox Nation is a way to carve a new revenue stream for Fox News, which will stand as the biggest financial engine of a slimmed-down 21st Century Fox once the parent company completes a sale of the bulk of its assets to Walt Disney Co. in early 2019. Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network are expected to generate more than $1.9 billion in affiliate fees this year, according to data from media-research group Kagan, and nearly $1.08 billion in advertising. The trick will be to get Fox News superfans to subscribe to Fox Nation without tamping down their use of the flagship cable outlets. Executives see the new offering as something commuters can take in while on the train or stuck in traffic.

“I think what we are going to offer is different.”
John Finley, Fox News senior VP of development and production

Subscribers can’t gain access to live Fox News programs on the service (though they can listen to an audio stream of them after the broadcasts have aired), and Fox Nation’s live offerings won’t compete with the Fox News primetime schedule. The network’s most-watched hosts — Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson — will contribute new programming to Fox Nation, such as “Laura & Raymond,” featuring Ingraham and Raymond Arroyo.

Both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairmen of 21st Century Fox, have been deeply involved in the project. The impetus for Fox Nation came out of general talks about devising broadband products for a number of Fox properties, including FX and Fox Broadcasting. “I have been meeting with them regularly about it. I’ve gone through probably at this point dozens of show ideas with both of them, and batted them back and forth,” says Finley. “We’ve killed some and created some.” He declined to mention specific shows either Murdoch suggested.

Some of the programming is less tied to news of the moment. Brian Kilmeade, for example, will host “What Made America Great,” a look at some of the controversies behind iconic American events. Former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman analyzes famous criminal cases in “The Fuhrman Diaries.” In recent months, Finley has had to keep tabs on as many as 40 different productions while the company created Fox Nation content.

It’s no secret younger people tend to gravitate toward broadband services. Indeed, 60% of preorders for Fox Nation that have come in during a promotion are via mobile, says Finley. But executives aren’t making age the sole factor in how to build the offering. “We are a big tent, and the flaps are open,” he says, adding, “I also hope people who aren’t conservative find something to watch.”

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