OAN facing uncertain future after losing DirecTV deal — but what about streaming?

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

Right wing network OAN appears to be facing an uncertain future once its carriage contact with DirecTV expires later this year.

OAN, which is owned by Herring Networks, is a far right channel that is known for peddling false and misleading information and conspiracy theories that go beyond even what Fox’s right leaning commentary channel airs.

Like many networks, OAN makes money from the fees pay TV providers remit to carry the feed. That amount varies greatly by network, ranging from pennies to $30 or more per subscriber.

It’s likely that OAN is more toward the lower end of that figure in its deal with DirecTV.

With DirecTV dropping the network, the network will lose that revenue stream — and also a huge pool of potential viewers since, by definition, people can’t watch a channel that isn’t available to them.

Most cable networks also make money by selling advertising between programming, but in many cases those amounts are actually comparatively less than the carriage fees, something that industry watchers have pointed out allows Fox’s channel to be so profitable even if advertisers start pulling spots because of its controversial stances.

OAN is also facing a sort of “chicken and egg” challenge in that it can’t reliably sell ads, especially at higher rates, if it doesn’t have viewers.

Most advertisers are willing to pay more money for shows and channels with more viewers, especially ones in particular demographic groups (in some cases, low rated shows and networks can still be fairly profitable because they attract advertisers looking to reach the narrow audience that does watch).

It’s hard to get a clear picture of just how many people watch OAN, but Nielsen Media Research estimates say it’s probably around 14,000 on average, compared to over 4 million for some shows on Fox.

Even lower rated MSNBC and CNN hit the 1 million viewers mark and, when not, often still manage to register in the six figures.

According to a report in Bloomberg, OAN could look to boost its streaming offerings to save the company financially (an executive told Reuters in 2020 that losing the DirecTV deal would cause the company to have to close up shop).

The network already offers a $4.99 a month streamer called OAN Plus, but it’s not clear how many people subscribe.

The app hit a high in the days following the 2021 Capitol insurrection, with an estimated 517,000 installs in January 2021. That dropped to 14,000 people per month by the end of that year, according to data firm Sensor Tower, as noted in the Bloomberg report.

Downloading the app also doesn’t ultimately mean the user signs up for the service and doesn’t count those who never use it or later delete it.

Herring does appear to be trying to formulate a streaming strategy of some type, notes Bloomberg. It’s run a little known streamer called KlowdTV since 2016 that offers OAN, Newsmax and InfoWars along with other right leaning content, but notably hasn’t made much of a marketing push for it.

OAN also hired Alex Kopacz, who previously helped make the Law & Crime network available on free, ad supported streamers, according to Bloomberg reporting.

The network has also lost the ability to earn money from ads shown on videos posted to its YouTube channel after the Google owned video giant kicked it out of its partner program for posting videos with false claims related to COVID-19.

Along with that move, the channel’s content is, by design, ranked lower in search results.

Meanwhile, once DirecTV stops carrying the channel, OAN will still be available Verizon Fios and a handful of smaller providers, but these don’t amount to anywhere near the carriage it has now.

It’s also available on Pluto TV, which is owned by ViacomCBS.

The network is also expected to remain available, for the $4.99 a month fee, on various streaming devices.