Fox News Unveils Plans to Expand Beyond Politics, Hard News at Upfront

Fox News Is Expanding Beyond Politics, News at Upfronts
Courtesy of Fox News Media

After devoting constant chatter to the 2020 election and the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News wants to make sure to talk about other subjects, including sports and weather.

During an upfront presentation to ad buyers and clients Tuesday, executives from Fox News Media told Madison Avenue they intended to expand programming beyond the news of the day. Fox News hopes to sell commercial inventory in a range of new venues the company hopes will appeal to core viewers of the conservative news outlet while branching out from the politics that has been such a focus of the last four years.

“We are in no way leaning back from politics. We are leaning into It,” says Jeff Collins, executive vice president of ad sales for Fox News Media in an interview. “But the overall political cycle has lessened significantly. It has opened up a lot more time.” The Fox Corp.-owned outlet made outreach to Madison Avenue Tuesday as part of the annual industry sales session known as the upfront.

Fox News Media is eager to integrate advertisers into its flagship network’s new “Gutfeld!” late-night program; to interest clients in the launch of Fox Weather, a live-streamed service that will focus on national and local conditions using Fox-owned stations and new personnel; and to weave sponsors into certain programs on Fox Nation, its streaming service, that, if popular enough, may find their way on to Fox News Channel on Sunday nights.

The company sees a chance to create “more diversified content, around lifestyle and entertainment,” says Collins, and even sports. Fox Corporation recently purchased Outkick, a sports-news and talk site with a reputation for offering a conservative lens on that sector.

Like other outlets focused on news, Fox is navigating its way thorough a world that is changed quickly since the end of last year. There are no presidential tweets about football players or conspiracy theories. Many of Fox News’ primetime opinion hosts have been left instead to their own devices and monologues, rather than having a White House that eagerly churned out nightly material. Fox Corporation recently noted that third-quarter advertising revenue from the company’s cable operations declined nearly 7% owing to “a slower news cycle” than the one experienced in the year-earlier period.

Selling ads could prove somewhat more challenging in years to come. Projections from Kagan, a market-research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, sees Fox News generating $990 million in advertising in 2021 and $971 million in 2022. Kagan estimates Fox News secured nearly $1.19 billion in ad sales for 2020. Kagan predicts Fox will continue to win more ad dollars in those years than its two main rivals, MSNBC and CNN.

During the presentation, Collins told advertisers Fox News remains the only mainstream outlet that aims to reach consumers with a “center right” leaning. He also pointed to a range of new personalities that have gained more time on air — including Kayleigh McEnany and Pete Doocy — that it believes will attract “next-gen viewers,”or  people between 18 and 49. Gutfeld, Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney and Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt were among the Fox News Media personnel who made an appearance during the streamed presentation.

Fox News remains a critical component of its parent company, delivering the bulk of its operating profit. In the second quarter as of May 7, the network is winning more viewers than rivals CNN and MSNBC in both primetime and total day. That’s an improvement from the first quarter of 2021, when the network was the most-watched cable-news outlet in primetime, but faced challenges with CNN and MSNBC in total-day viewing. Both of those networks had more viewers in total over the course of a total day in the quarter.

Fox News is hoping to engage advertisers in new kinds of conversations, says Collins — reflecting how Madison Avenue is using new technology to find smaller pockets of audience more likely to be interested in specific products and services. “There is a huge audience outside of the demo,” or people between 25 and 54 that advertisers in news normally pay most for, says Collins. The company will aim to do more agreements with clients that call for “outcome-based guarantees,” that might include anything ranging from web response to visits to auto showrooms. “We have loyal fans. We know they buy a lot of products from our advertisers, and we will be demonstrating this in this year,” he said. “There is an opportunity to provide our advertising partners guarantees based on outcomes and to move further away from antiquated demographic guarantees.”