In 2016, Donald Trump considered starting his own television channel if he lost the US presidential election. His unexpected victory crushed that possibility four years ago, but now he will finally get his chance.
With Joe Biden winning, Trump will soon be out of a job. Attention will now turn to what the incumbent president will do with his time, other than tend to an ongoing New York State investigation into his company. And once again he would explore how to create his own media empire.
Senior Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is “talking” about the idea of a Trump-branded media company, Business Insider reported last month. The New York Times reported this week that talks from 2016 about launching a “Trump TV” entity have continued this year.
There are reasons to believe that these talks are serious. Trump’s actions this year – and especially in recent days – clearly demonstrate that he believes the only network that can sufficiently stroke his own ego is one owned and operated by himself and his offspring.
According to several media, the Trump camp is mad with conservative cable news network Fox News for projecting Joe Biden would win Arizona State, throwing a wrench in the president’s desperate plan to delegitimize the election results. Kushner reportedly called Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and asked the network to withdraw his call. (The network did not.)
This followed months of Trump using increasingly hostile language toward the network, which had long tried to indulge the White House with flattering coverage. But apparently even that wasn’t obsequious enough. In April, he tweeted that viewers were growing angry with Fox News and wanted a “alternative.” A month later, he argued that Fox “isn’t the same anymore” and then said he was “looking for a new outlet.”
Having a performative, foundational grievance — in this case, that the election was a fraud and that Fox News did nothing to stop Joe Biden — could spur Trump’s efforts to launch his own network that would inevitably compete with Fox. News for viewers.
It is unclear exactly how this could materialize. Trump doesn’t like generating revenue for other companies without reaping the financial benefits himself, so he would likely need a stake in a hypothetical network. And since he’s pathologically obsessed with ratings, this company should probably air on TV rather than online, which is much harder to measure and wouldn’t fit with his potential audience of mostly older viewers. .
He could buy an existing cable network, but finding a seller could be difficult, given how globally reviled the Trump brand has become. Either way, he would enter a media landscape that is not favorable to new ventures. Traditional media networks are struggling amid declining viewership and ad revenue. examples of New networks that succeed in this environment are rare. Even the Oprah Winfrey Network, which might be the closest parallel to a possible Trump-branded network, struggled to attract an audience initially.
Trump probably wouldn’t have the patience to wait several years for a network to find its footing, but he might not have to. Its audience is large, enraged and loyal. It wouldn’t take a business genius to financially benefit millions of Trump voters who will wonder where they can see the future former president speak next.
Some right-wing niche platforms, like Newsmax and One America News, have already had moderate success, but with much smaller audiences than what Trump is used to getting on network and cable TV. If Trump were to take over one of these networks as leader, rather than create a new one, he might struggle to grow them significantly.
If he finds the money and the opportunity to do a “Trump TV,” another hurdle remains. He will likely still have to deal with the US Federal Communications Commission, which, as of January 20, 2021, will respond to President Joe Biden.