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Rupert Murdoch's Fox Corp. shares tumbled with speculation ramping up that President Donald Trump might back or launch a rival news service after he leaves office.
American news site Axios reported on Thursday, citing unidentified sources, that Trump is planning a subscription-based streaming platform similar to Fox Nation, a $US6-a-month service launched two years ago.
Fox shares declined from the start of trading, and the drop deepened after Trump amplified a series of Twitter posts from users criticising Fox News as insufficiently loyal to the president and urging conservatives to switch to rivals such as Newsmax.
Alternative facts: Donald Trump is gearing up to launch a rival news service when he leaves the White House, US news site Axion reports.Credit:Fox News
In a tweet of his own after the retweets, Trump said Fox's daytime ratings have "completely collapsed" because the network "forgot what made them successful, what got them there."
Fox News was the biggest difference between the 2016 and 2020 elections because the network forgot its "Golden Goose," Trump said in the tweet.
Trump's targeting of Fox's daytime ratings appeared purposeful. The channel's programs during the day feature conservative perspectives but play the news relatively straight, while its prime-time opinion shows star full-throated defenders of the president such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
In response, Fox News said its daytime audience is up 62 per cent — averaging 2.7 million viewers for the seven days through Wednesday from the same period last year — citing Nielsen data. The network also was the most-watched on election night, with an audience of 14.1 million.
The president's relationship with the most-watched news channel in America has waxed and waned over the years. Trump was a frequent guest on Fox News long before he decided to run for president, and the Fox News evening commentators have been ardent supporters of him throughout his time in office. Trump recommend on Twitter that viewers watch Hannity on Wednesday.
Fox News, the biggest moneymaker for media mogul Rupert Murdoch, made early calls on election night that incensed the president, such as declaring Arizona for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. One of Trump's political advisers, Jason Miller, tweeted that night that the network was trying to "invalidate" the election, and Trump continued his attacks in a fundraising email sent later.
Fox shares fell 6.4 per cent to $US25.71 as of 1:41 pm in New York. They were down 26 per cent this year through Wednesday's close.
At the company's annual meeting, held Thursday morning in Los Angeles, shareholders approved the election of all director nominees and its executive-compensation package. Chairman Rupert Murdoch listened in to the meeting by phone, while his son Lachlan, the chief executive officer, presided over the event on the Fox studio lot. After opening the meeting to questions from shareholders, none was asked.
"From Memorial Day through Election Day, Fox News was the No. 1 network in prime time among all cable and broadcast networks," Lachlan Murdoch said. "Our viewers are spending more time watching their Fox stations than ever before."
On an earnings call last week, he said he wasn't worried about competition, noting that the network has led the cable news industry for 18 years, through a number of US administrations.
"We love competition," Lachlan Murdoch said. "We have always thrived with competition, and we have strong competition now."
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