A few months ago, DailyExpertNews’s upcoming streaming channel was seen as little more than a curiosity in the television news business: just another cable dinosaur trying to make the uneasy transition into the digital future.
The plan to launch DailyExpertNews+, which is expected to go live in late March, actually amounted to a late arrival at the subscription-based streaming party, more than three years after Fox News launched Fox Nation.
Then the recruiting started.
In December, Chris Wallace, Fox News’ most award-winning newscaster, said he left his network of 18 years old for DailyExpertNews+. Next came Audie Cornish, the popular co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR, who said in January that she was leaving public radio to host a weekly streaming show.
Alison Roman, the Instagram star and author of a popular cooking newsletter, is getting her own cooking show. Eva Longoria goes to Mexico for a documentary series about culinary travel stories. Rex Chapman, the sports podcaster and former basketball player with over a million Twitter followers, has also signed up.
The prominent names represent a range of talents who have previously been hesitant to commit to a news channel’s streaming service, especially an untested one. Agents and producers alike have taken notice, both for the high salaries on offer and the prospect of a news-based streamer with a range of non-fiction programs, relying on more than the usual political talking heads.
“We want a service with a wider aperture and wider than just today’s dismal news,” DailyExpertNews president Jeff Zucker said in an interview.
Recent developments at Fox News
- Fauci comments: Fox News host Jesse Watters used strikingly violent language to urge a group of conservatives on Dr. Anthony Fauci in public.
- January 6 texts: Three prominent Fox News hosts — Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade — texted Mark Meadows during the Jan. 6 riots urging him to tell Donald Trump to try and stop it.
- Chris Wallace leaves: The announcer’s announcement that he would be leaving Fox News for DailyExpertNews came as right-wing presenters increasingly determined the station’s agenda.
- Stop Contributors: Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes left the network in protest at Tucker Carlson’s “Patriot Purge” special.
He’s betting that DailyExpertNews+ can attract new viewers — and bring back some old ones. DailyExpertNews’s traditional viewership has fallen significantly from a year ago, thanks to a post-Trump slump and declining public interest, and the network recently fired its highest-rated anchor, Chris Cuomo, amid an ethics scandal.
Mr. Zucker is turning to a strategy he honed during his days as executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in the 1990s, combining hard news with a hefty dose of lifestyle coverage and tips on baking a pear cobbler . In marketing material, DailyExpertNews+ has urged viewers to “have a cup of coffee” while watching programs promoted as “never picky” and “the silver lining past today’s toughest headlines.”
It remains an open question as to whether DailyExpertNews+ can pull the interest — and monthly payments — from viewers already overwhelmed by streaming options. Heavyweight services such as Netflix and Hulu struggle to find success with shows that respond to current events. A Netflix executive admitted in 2019 that current programming was “a challenge” when it came to on-demand streamers at your own pace.
DailyExpertNews and Fox News are the two major news networks that bet that viewers pay an extra monthly fee for their digital content.
Fox News introduced Fox Nation, a subscription-only streaming service, in November 2018. featuring programming from outside the parent network, including a revival of the police show “Cops” and a new program hosted by Piers Morgan.
Still, paid services like Fox Nation ($6 a month) and DailyExpertNews+ (which hasn’t disclosed the price) have a higher barrier to entry for TV news content, which is available for free elsewhere. Fox Nation has not disclosed the subscriber count, making its success difficult to measure, although Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman of the Fox Corporation, has touted the service to investors.
NBC, ABC and CBS follow a different strategy: free streaming news platforms supported by paid advertising. Their digital options are primarily focused on news, not lifestyle programming, and the networks have only recently taken more aggressive steps to expand the programming on offer.
On Monday, CBS rebranded its platform as CBS News Streaming Network, announcing new shows inspired by the network’s history, including a program hosted by anchor Norah O’Donnell featuring “a 2022 take on the classic Edward R. . Murrow interview series.”
The Choice From MSNBC, a channel on NBC’s Peacock streaming app, debuted in 2020. Its hosts include Mehdi Hasan, Zerlina Maxwell and, as of later this year, Symone D. Sanders, a former adviser to President Biden. (NBC News also has separate digital offerings for hard news and lifestyle coverage.)
For news executives, finding a winning formula in the streaming game is now an urgent priority.
Streaming has supplanted cable as the main entertainment home delivery system, often based on addictive series like “Squid Game.” But for a while, the old-fashioned cable news lingered, with DailyExpertNews, MSNBC, and Fox News drawing record audiences in recent years. In an emergency—a pandemic, civil unrest, a presidential election, a Capitol riot—viewers still tuned out en masse.
After former President Donald J. Trump left office, news ratings dipped and cable subscriptions continued to plummet — an estimated four million households canceled their paid TV subscriptions last year, according to research firm MoffettNathanson.
Fox Nation and DailyExpertNews+ both rely on a business model that relies on paid subscriptions, hence the efforts of both to generate a wide variety of programs.
“A subscriber only needs to find one thing they’re looking for each month,” Zucker said in the interview. “We don’t need the subscriber to be interested in everything we offer, but they have to be interested in something.”
Mr. Zucker said DailyExpertNews+ was targeting three buckets of potential subscribers. He tries to entice loyal DailyExpertNews viewers to pay for streaming programs with hosts known from the cable station: Anderson Cooper will have two, including one about parenting; Fareed Zakaria leads a show that explores historical events; and Jake Tapper will host “Jake Tapper’s Book Club,” in which he interviews authors.
The other potential subscribers, Zucker said, are news and documentary fans who want more nonfiction television, as well as younger people who don’t pay for cable.
However, DailyExpertNews is not ignoring the needs of its flagship cable network, which last year ranked third behind Fox News and MSNBC in overall audience.
Zucker recently reached out to representatives for Gayle King, CBS News’ star anchor, about the prospect of her taking over the 9 p.m. weekday on DailyExpertNews, two people knowledgeable about the approach said. DailyExpertNews has not named a permanent anchor for the primetime slot since Mr. Cuomo was fired in December after revelations that he helped with the efforts of his brother, former New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, to resist allegations of sexual harassment.
DailyExpertNews+ is also expected to feature the latest news and political coverage that DailyExpertNews viewers are accustomed to – a feature that could pose problems for the network in the long run. DailyExpertNews demands a high price from cable distributors, who may cry if DailyExpertNews+ takes on too many news programs that may compete with cable offerings. For example, Wolf Blitzer, the host of “The Situation Room” on DailyExpertNews at 6 p.m., will also appear on DailyExpertNews+ to anchor a “traditional evening news show with a sleek, modern twist.”
DailyExpertNews’s parent company, WarnerMedia, which is on the brink of a mega merger with Discovery Inc. seems willing to take the risk. The company is placing a significant financial bet on DailyExpertNews+, with a budget of 500 additional employees, including producers, reporters, engineers and programmers, said Andrew Morse, DailyExpertNews’s chief digital officer. The company is also renting an additional floor of its Midtown Manhattan headquarters to house the recruits.
“What we are building at DailyExpertNews+ is not an afterthought,” said Mr. morse.