Newsmax Founder and CEO Christopher Ruddy told CNN Sunday that Newsmax TV will broaden the political conversation well beyond simple labels like “liberal” and “conservative.”
"Fox is great at what it does," Ruddy told CNN’s “Reliable Sources" with host Brian Stelter, adding that the conservative news giant’s owner Rupert Murdoch was a "genius" when he created the conservative-leaning news network in 1996.
Murdoch, Ruddy said, recognized there was a huge audience outside "the CNN world" not being addressed by the mainstream media.
But there are 100 million conservative-leaning Americans, Ruddy said, and Fox News is taking in a core audience of just 3 million to 4 million of that group, leaving room for Newsmax TV to add more perspective not just on politics, but also on health, financial, lifestyle, and other informational programming that will appeal to a boomer audience.
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Founded as a website in 1998, Newsmax has already established itself as a powerful news brand, Ruddy noted, and is in some ways "bigger" than Fox online. He said today his company is "very profitable" and has budgeted at least $70 million this year for marketing alone.
Newsmax regularly ranks among the top sites in the comScore News/Politics category of the approximately 60 million who follow such news, regularly beating Fox in the key category.
Last month, Newsmax drew 11.5 million unique visitors, and through partner sites that carry Newsmax news, had a total reach of 49 million Americans, according to comScore.
By time of the expected network launch in late spring or early summer of this year, Ruddy says Newsmax TV is hoping for 15 hours of live programming per day. By the end of summer he expects that to be 18-21 hours daily.
The timing is good for a new network, Ruddy suggested, saying that Fox's sometimes "polarizing" take and the potential market for center and center-right news had left a wide-open market for his effort.
He pointed to a recent Pew Research Center poll
that showed 39 percent of Americans describe themselves as conservative and 37 percent moderate. Even those identifying as moderate, Ruddy said, have conservative views.
"Only 23 percent of Americans say they're liberal," he said. "That's a very small number. And you have most of the major media networks fighting over that very small market share."
Stelter noted that a recent Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Ruddy
called Newsmax TV a "kinder, gentler" version of Fox News.
But Ruddy responded that Fox News has sought to shift its programming to return to its original mission of being "fair and balanced."
Why does he believe there’s a need for a changing perspective now?
People saw the 2012 presidential election as very polarizing, Ruddy explained. When Fox News launched in 1996, the Republican Party had a favorability rating with the general public of 65 percent. Today, it is at a low point of just 35 percent.
"I believe the Republican Party's actually fighting for its survival," Ruddy told CNN. And, he added, during the years Fox has dominated the Republican side of news coverage there's been "an overall effect that's not been positive for the Republican Party." He hopes his network can broaden the overall debate with more, new voices.
Stelter was skeptical that Newsmax TV would be able to convince cable and satellite providers to carry the new channel. But unlike many new TV network ventures, Ruddy pointed out that Newsmax has a well established brand and audience.
The company is also expected to stream free "over the top" on a wide array of devices, including computers, smartphones, and other devices. Today, more than 5 million Americans can tune into Newsmax TV using Roku, and millions more with their iPhone app.
And Fox has already shown there is a huge market looking for conservative news, Ruddy said, though he expects to pull viewers from all the news networks, including the liberal-leaning MSNBC.
"I want to have some really good, articulate liberals," he said, noting that Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz already uses Newsmax as the homepage for his blogs.
"Our readers don't agree with everything Alan says, but he's really interesting. He's fascinating. He's unpredictable," Ruddy said. "That's the type of thing I want to have on Newsmax, not predictability."
On Newsmax TV, viewers will be able to hear opposing views that are not personally attacking those on the other side, he said.
Ruddy discussed his friendship with former President Bill Clinton and offered praise for Hillary Clinton, noting she is well qualified for the nation's highest office.
"I think she would make a good president," Ruddy said.
Asked by Stelter his current GOP favorite for the presidency, Ruddy picked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"I live in Florida. … He did an incredible job as governor," Ruddy said. "He's very different than his brother. He appeals to all the constituencies of the Republican Party. But he's extremely forward thinking."
Bush recently wrote a cover story for Newsmax magazine
on growth, and Ruddy believes the GOP must become the party of growth if it hopes to survive in the years ahead.
"We can't be the party of no," he said.
Newsmax TV's online programming can be seen now at NewsmaxTV.com
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