Fox News is taking a major hit in the ratings as a result of a contract dispute with Dish Network.
Since the fourth week of December, over 14 million satellite TV viewers have gone without the Fox News Chanel, stemming from an argument between Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox Inc., and Dish Network Corp. over programming fees.
The Nielsen ratings don’t lie — the Dish Network blackout has been awful for Fox News. In the weeks before the blackout, Fox’s cable news powerhouse averaged 1.65 to 1.68 million viewers. In just the first week after the Dish Network blackout, Fox News averaged just 939,000 primetime viewers.
Critics say that viewership for all cable news networks is erratic, and that viewership during the week of Christmas is always a crap shoot. However, others point out that Fox News’ primetime ratings for 2014 are down 12 percent from the previous year. The dip makes sense when you realize that Dish Network has a market share of just over 13 percent of the pay-TV industry.
Fox News is also down in the coveted 25-54 age demographic, though not sharply. Fox News averaged 160,000 of those viewers in a week, compared to 175,000 from the same week last year.
Compared to the other cable news outlets, however, Fox News is still on top. In terms of total primetime viewers for the week, CNN averaged 484,000 and MSNBC averaged 402,000. Fox News has been and continues to be the most-watched cable news network for 13 straight years.
So what’s the problem between Fox News and Dish Network? The two parted ways on December 21, after Dish Network accused Fox of trying to leverage Fox News’ popularity to secure higher rates for a less popular channel. Now it’s a case of “he said she said,” with 21st Century Fox blaming Dish Network for the blackout and Dish Network blaming Fox.
In the meantime, Fox News addicts who have Dish Network have been loudly airing their displeasure with the satellite company via phone calls or on social media. Though those viewers have been calling to cancel their subscriptions and demand money back for the duration of the blackout, it turns out that under the terms of their contract, Dish Network is fully within their rights to change or delete any programming they wish.
— slone (@slone) January 1, 2015
‘Real Americans’ held hostage:Fox News blackout on Dish Network enters second week http://t.co/1KfCKCmVxq |Almost enough incentive to switch
— Rick Cooley (@rcooley123) December 30, 2014
— Vivian Griffin (@AdamsFlaFan) December 27, 2014
As of now, Dish Network and Fox News refuse to comment on how long the current blackout will last.