Isn’t winning a reason to celebrate? Not for Fox News. At last week’s Republican National Convention, Fox crushed its television news rivals with some 9.1 million viewers when Clint Eastwood and his empty chair took the stage — a two-to-one margin over rival cable and broadcast networks. But despite the ratings dominance, Fox has a minimal public footprint at the conventions. While most news organizations throw open their doors to host parties and policy panels, Fox News is eschewing any marketing frippery.
It’s the networks that are the furthest behind that seem to be spending the most. CNN, which attracted just 2.3 million viewers last Thursday night at 10 p.m., spent a reported $2 million to run the packed “CNN Grill,” which served up a gourmet menu to guests like Newt Gingrich and the correspondents for the Daily Show. Other news organizations are spending lavishly to outfit party spaces to host policy breakfasts in the morning and cocktail parties late into the night: “Bloomberg Link,” the Huffington Post’s “Oasis” full-service spa, and the “MSNBC Experience.”
Meanwhile, Fox remains walled off from journalists and politicians circling through the convention. In Tampa last week, a pair of burly security guards manned the door to the Fox News green room in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In Charlotte, Fox’s turf is on a far side of the convention hall marked by a small sign that reads “Fox News Workspace.” Last week, the network hosted an invitation-only party for executives from their affiliates, and it will host another affiliate party tomorrow. But that’s about it.
One of the most striking aspects of Fox’s success is how little interaction the network has with the rest of the media. For one thing, Fox News doesn’t need the marketing. Ailes’s network is dominant, and he surely knows that hosting a party or a policy symposium would likely do nothing to boost ratings. Another is secrecy: Fox does not tolerate leaks and generally controls contact between producers and on-air talent and the press. Hosting a cocktail party is not their style.
I asked the network about their diminutive party presence at the conventions, and executive vice-president Michael Clemente responded with a statement: “We’re more interested in using our personnel to gather facts and report on the convention. We’ll leave the catering and bartending to others.”