Fox News has strengthened its streaming strategy with a simple tactic: doubling down on politics.
Fox Nation, the company’s two-and-a-half-year-old video streaming service, has benefited from the addition of Tucker Carlson content in April but saw bigger bumps in mobile usage surrounding the airing of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February.
Data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by mobile analytics firm Apptopia found that mobile engagement with Fox Nation steadily dipped in the months following the election but experienced a noticeable uptick starting in late February, around when CPAC 2021 began. While mobile-centric metrics can’t account for viewing across all screens, it provides a glimpse of Fox Nation’s audience trends.
Monthly downloads of Fox Nation jumped to nearly 282,300 in March, up 204% from February. This March 2021 download figure was up 260% and 72%, respectively, from the comparable 2019 and 2020 periods.
The bumps in mobile usage Apptopia notes Fox Nation received over the past few months is bolstered by recent comments made by Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch. The chief exec during Fox’s earnings call earlier in May said subscribers of Fox Nation had grown 40% since mid-February.
Murdoch cited CPAC and the controversial Carlson as two of the reasons Fox Nation subs had grown in this time period, though no subscriber numbers were disclosed. Carlson’s linear audience has also been surging post-election, surpassing Sean Hannity as the network’s primary primetime attraction.
It seems likely CPAC was a big driver of this March downloads bump, as from Feb. 1 to date, U.S. mobile downloads of Fox Nation peaked during the week of March 1, the week following CPAC ending.
Perhaps this early March peak in usage was attributable to consumers wanting to catch up on the happenings of CPAC, which ran Feb. 25-28. Fox Nation sponsored the event and offered a livestream of it, which saw former President Trump’s first public speech since leaving office.
It’s also possible some of these downloads during March were in anticipation of content coming out in the week after, such as “Age of Rush,” a four-part series of the life of Rush Limbaugh. “Age of Rush” premiered on Fox Nation on March 10.
Either way, it seems as though Fox Nation’s mobile platform was revitalized more in early March than early April, when new Carlson-led streaming originals began to roll out.
Fox’s most watched host on March 29 began hosting “Tucker Carlson Today,” an extension of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (which has run on Fox News Channel since 2016), exclusively on Fox Nation. A deal between the host and Fox was announced in February.
“Tucker Carlson Originals,” monthly single-topic specials exclusive to Fox Nation, premiered on April 23. And “Tucker Carlson Tonight: The Vault,” which offers segments from “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” launched on Fox Nation on April 19.
Mobile downloads of Fox Nation during the week of March 1 were respectively 103% and 264% higher than they were during the weeks of March 29 (when “Tucker Carlson Today”) and April 19 (when “Tucker Carlson Originals” debuted).
But even though mobile downloads of Fox Nation peaked in March, daily mobile users of the service continued to rise month-over-month in April, Apptopia estimates. Estimated mobile daily users of Fox Nation increased by 5% from March to April, when more Carlson content was added to the service.
That’s an achievement given the particularly strong month of estimated mobile usage for Fox Nation in March.
Apptopia estimates average daily users of Fox Nation shot up 95% month-over-month to 210,000 in March. That monthly increase was particularly visible after the figure decreased by 17%, 19% and 16% in December, January and February, respectively.
The company has been attempting to diversify Fox Nation beyond just politics and position the SVOD as a broader entertainment service, though it may still need time to position itself to the broader public as a place not just for Fox superfans.
“Castles USA,” which explores the history of U.S. castles, debuted on Fox Nation on Jan. 11. “Elvis: The Comeback Special 1968” debuted on Fox Nation on Jan. 25. However, mobile downloads and daily users did not surge in January, according to Apptopia estimates.
Licensing more recognizable franchises like “Duck Dynasty,” which Fox Nation started streaming in June 2020, could help this initiative.