The holy grail for a defeated Donald Trump might be to exact revenge on the establishment Republican Party by building a nativist rival to the Fox News Channel on cable. Let’s call it Trump Cable News.
The Trump Cable News lineup might include a primetime show with Trump himself. Another hour might include Sean Hannity, the Fox News anchor and Trump supporter whom many suspect will leave his network at the end of the year. Even Bill O’Reilly might be drawn to abandon Fox for a new venture that paid him more money. But that raises one huge problem for Trump’s cable pipe dream—money. Where is he going to get it?
Trump would need upfront support from investors and ongoing support from many advertisers, because building a cable network from scratch is prohibitively expensive, even for a self-proclaimed billionaire. "It seems highly unlikely that Trump—who is loath even to spend money on polls because he believes there are plenty of public ones he can have for free—would suddenly cough up tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to enter the fraught business of cable TV,” wrote Ryan Lizza, a staff writer at The New Yorker.
Several people told The Street that the costs of setting up a Fox News rival could easily run between $300 million and $800 million. Investors and television experts are practically united in their certainty that Trump has so utterly demolished his brand that few investors or advertisers would want to support his endeavor. Mike Allen reported that a source close to the investment firm that spoke with Kushner had "no interest in being in business with Trump.”
What’s more, the pay TV industry is both bloated and in structural decline. There are too many cable channels who want a spot in the bundle and not enough new audiences who are willing to pay. Even Roger Ailes' recent foray into cable news, Fox Business, has struggled to attract audiences despite hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.
2. Trump TV—Online
If the year were 1996, Trump’s inability to secure investment for a cable news network would mean the end of his television dreams. But today there are tens of millions of U.S. households subscribing to Netflix, Amazon Video, and other “over the top” (OTT) online video options that go around the cable bundle. Trump could build a digital television network.
The prototype for Trump might be The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s multimedia operation, which includes a website, radio programs, and a paid subscription digital television network. Since launching in 2010, The Blaze has seen highs and lows that suggest the road to success in digital TV is easier described than executed. In its first year, Beck’s enterprise took in more than $40 million in revenue, with about 300,000 subscribers paying at least $100 a year. But since peaking in late 2014, viewership and audiences have declined significantly, necessitating layoffs that essentially shrunk the company by half, according to reporting by The Daily Beast.