A little more than a year ago, Glenn Beck left Fox News under a dark cloud: With the mercurial host's audience declining and advertisers jumping ship, Fox News chief Roger Ailes was reportedly tiring of Beck's increasingly strident diatribes. Beck, for his part, said he felt constricted at Fox, and declared that he didn't need TV networks, moved to Dallas, and launched a subscription internet-only channel, GBTV. A year later, the channel — rebranded TheBlazeTV — has 300,000 paying members, brings in millions in revenue, and, on Sept. 12, debuted on the TV sets of 14 million Dish Network customers. For years, the Fox gig was very lucrative, for both Beck and News Corp. Can the Dish deal restore the incendiary host to his former pinnacle of influence and fame, and boost Dish's bottom line to boot?
Possibly. TV is Beck's natural medium: Beck has done very well, financially, with TheBlazeTV, says Sam Thielman at AdWeek. But he's no longer "part of the national conversation," and that's got to hurt. "Sure, 300,000 subscribers is a huge, huge number," but many true-blue Beck fans are older people who prefer real TV to the internet. That said, it's not a sure thing that on Dish he'll be able to attract "the same following that hung on his every word" at Fox, or that the "chattering classes will be as interested" in Beck now that he's a media lone wolf.
"What does the return of Glenn Beck mean for digital video?"
He's already bigger than ever — and only getting stronger: Don't cry for Beck, says David Goetzl at MediaPost. He has his own TV network, with full creative control, putting him "only a few years behind Oprah." And remember, Dish is embroiled in its own ugly fight with cable networks, including AMC, suggesting that "Dish and Beck might be made for each other with their willingness to challenge Big Media." But Beck is thinking bigger — you can bet that he wants TheBlazeTV in all 100 million pay-TV homes in America. And "love him or hate him, it would be hard today to doubt him."
"Beck back on TV dishing out right-wing diatribes"
The real winner here is consumers: Laugh all you want at Beck, says Jeff Bercovici at Forbes, but this deal "may be remembered as the Shot Heard 'round the World in the battle to break cable distributors' stranglehold on network content." The biggest news is that he gets to keep his direct-subscription service — something that terrifies the Time Warners of the world. This could pave the way for similar internet-to-cable deals, and "if that happens, Beck will have truly helped create some of that thing he loves so much to talk about: Freedom."
"The beginning of the end for pay TV tyranny?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
Subscribe to the Week