A series of events in the presidential campaign in recent days, including the installation of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as new chief of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the news that Roger Ailes is informally advising #trump on debate preparation and even more solid reports, indicate something that’s been rumored for months: That’s Trump’s endgame, following the presidential campaign, is to launch a new media company.
There have been reports of such a thing all year long, especially with Ailes having recently left Fox News amid a swirling sexual harassment scandal. One piece, in The Atlantic, indicates that Trump could even be putting together a cable news channel to rival Fox News, possibly with Ailes in charge and with pro-Trump Fox hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity possibly joining up too. Such a company, whether it was a full-on news channel or just something smaller like Glenn Beck’s operation, would draw from and monetize Trump’s current base of support.
Call me skeptical about such a venture- whether it could succeed, or even get off the ground.
Where’s the Capital?
Leave aside that Ailes has reportedly signed a non-compete clause that prevents him from forming a Fox News rival for some unspecified period of time, or that most of the alleged participants are of an advanced age (Trump is 70, Ailes is 76, O’Reilly is 66.)
I’m just wondering where a Trump News Channel would get enough capital to plausibly compete. Trump, as the campaign has shown, isn’t as keen on self-funding as he claims. Ailes is rich, but not THAT rich. Bannon may own a piece of Seinfeld, but he’s got his own media company to run already. Trump, already seen as an unacceptable credit risk by ever major U.S. bank, would probably be forced to tap the same donor network that will have just financed a losing presidential campaign.
The last two successful launches of cable news networks were MSNBC and Fox News- both of which were backed by major corporations. Since then? Al Gore’s Current TV failed and was taken over by al-Jazeera; that failed as well. RT remains on the air with backing from the government of Russia, much as al-Jazeera America had the backing of Qatar. One America News remains, but it hasn’t exactly captured the zeitgeist this campaign season.
Launching a cable news network would likely cost in the hundreds of millions, and that’s even before raising the idea of trying to outbid News Corp for talent. Where’s that going to come from? What’s ironic is that Trump might be more effective at running a cable news network- or, for that matter, hosting a cable news show- than at running for president. #TrumpNews