NEW YORK — Newsmax on Monday hired a former Fox News Channel executive to run its television operation, a sign that the media company is looking to become more competitive with the network that is the overwhelming favorite of conservative viewers.
Michael Clemente is the new CEO of Newsmax TV, said Chris Ruddy, who runs the media company. Clemente ran Fox's news operation before losing a power struggle and leaving in 2016. Previously, he worked for 27 years at ABC News.
The company has spent the last few years building distribution for the television operation, which can also be streamed, Ruddy said. Now Newsmax wants to concentrate on building more programming. The network is in about half of the nation's television homes, the majority through satellite companies.
"I think that Fox is a great product," Ruddy said. "But it's also a stale product."
That doesn't mean Newsmax won't be open to talking to people who made a name for themselves on Fox; Clemente said he'll be looking for a combination of new and established talent.
For the first time this past weekend, Newsmax aired a special "No Spin News" program of commentary from former Fox star Bill O'Reilly. But Ruddy said there are no discussions about making it a permanent show.
Newsmax's website currently features columns by the likes of Michael Reagan, Patrick Buchanan, Alan Dershowitz, David Limbaugh, Ron Paul and Charles Krauthammer.
People are constantly able to keep up with tweets and news headlines, but they often have to turn to newspapers if they want real depth and understanding of issues, Clemente said. He believes that provides an opportunity for Newsmax.
Much of what people see on Fox, CNN and MSNBC involve debates and not news, Clemente said, likening it to people who tune into NASCAR hoping to see a crash.
While these networks have been riding a wave of popularity with the Trump administration, Clemente said that aside from their regular viewers "there are still over 300 million people, some of whom want to find out about what's going on in the world and don't necessarily want to argue about it."
Newsmax intends to be fair to all sides, he said. Ruddy is known to be a personal friend of President Donald Trump, but he said he isn't interested in making Newsmax Trump TV.
Fox has maintained its ratings success despite a period of turmoil that included the firing of O'Reilly after sexual misconduct settlements against him became known. Its prime-time opinion lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham strongly supports the president, who is known to watch and take cues from the network.