The product will debut this month in Mexico, followed by launches in Germany, Spain and the U.K. in September. The service, which will cost $6.99 per month, aims to expand into 20 countries by the end of the year, according to a network press release.
Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott on Tuesday said the platform would enable “our devoted audience overseas access to their trusted source for news and insightful analysis.” Along with live streams of Fox News and Fox Business, the new service will deliver 20 programs on-demand.
One media expert told Salon the product on its own was not enough to label Fox an “international” news organization.
“The analogy here is airports that add one international destination and claim they’re now an international airport,” Scott Talan, assistant professor at American University’s School of Communication, told Salon in an interview. “It doesn’t make them international or global. It’s a toe in the water — an experiment.”
In 2018, the network launched the domestic streaming service Fox Nation, which carries content fronted by a number of Fox News hosts, as well as additional programs not available with a cable subscription. At $5.99 per month, Fox Nation comes in at a lower price point than the new international offering.
Fox News executives announced earlier this month that Fox Nation had more than doubled its subscriptions over the last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Though eyebrows may jump at the decision to launch a paid service in a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, Talan pointed out that Fox does not have much on the line, relatively speaking.
“It’d actually be even more interesting if this idea was hatched during the pandemic, because when you look at the package, there’s really not much to lose,” he said.
Fox News already has the most expensive and complex piece in place: content production. Talan compared the package to rival CNN International, a full-on news service offering English-language reporting from bureaus around the world.
“It’s nowhere near what a truly international news service looks like — no reporters abroad giving a take from their perspective or telling related news stories. It isn’t even a continent type of plan,” he said. “If Fox were a restaurant, this is just another dessert to an already stacked menu. If customers don’t like it, no big deal.”
Taking into account Fox News’ record-breaking success over the last quarter and the increased consumer appetite for long-form viewing amid lockdowns, the pandemic appears to have altered consumer habits in a manner which could incentivize such a launch.
“It’s a little expensive, sure. But I get why they’re trying it — even now,” Talan said. “Because to a certain extent, we all have to keep living our lives. Today is better than tomorrow.”
The new product also raises questions about intended demographics, given Fox News’ conservative bent and the tendency for American travelers to skew left. Especially puzzling is the choice to debut in Mexico, a nation some Fox News personalities have pummeled as a scapegoat for immigration policy.
For instance, in a debate over illegal immigration, network star Tucker Carlson challenged Univision journalist Enrique Acevedo over whether Americans should “be allowed” to eat ethnic food.
“I’m totally opposed to illegal immigration. I think our legal immigration should be lower, because the country is getting too volatile. Those are my sincere views,” Carlson said. “Should I be allowed to eat Mexican food?”
Mexicans should share their food and culture with Americans, Acevedo responded.
“What do you mean ‘their food?’ It’s American food. It’s American food,” Carlson said. “What do you think you own tacos now or something? I feel like [I own them]. They’re an American food, and I’m going to keep eating them, even though I agree with Jeff Sessions.”
The network’s coverage of the 2018 migrant caravan from Mexico was widely criticized as “xenophobic nonsense.” It devoted hours of airtime in the weeks after the midterm elections to warning viewers, including President Donald Trump, of a non-existent “invasion.”
Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren suggested at the time that migrants trying to cross the border into the U.S. would spread hepatitis and HIV/AIDS throughout local communities.
“Oh, and over 100 migrants have lice and multiple instances of skin infections,” Lahren continued with the chyron “Caravan of Diseases” on full display across the screen. “Oh, and there’s also the threat of a hepatitis outbreak.”
And the list goes on.
Talan raised the point that American contractors often live abroad, and industries such as defense and construction often skew conservative. But Dr. Wenshan Jia, a Chapman University professor who studies intercultural communication, told The Wall Street Journal — which like Fox News shares ownership by the Murdoch family — that his research shows that the expat life more often pushes Americans to the left, politically.
“People traveling and living abroad become more educated,” Jia said, “and so they are less prone to propaganda in their own countries.”