The Blaze, a multimedia firm founded by Glenn Beck after he left Fox News eight years ago, will shut down its traditional cable channel at the end of the year, The Hollywood Reporter learned Wednesday.
The Blaze will continue to operate its subscription VOD service, its website and radio presence, though its linear cable channel wasn't making much headway in a crowded space that includes other conservative upstarts like Newsmax TV and One America News Network as well as Fox News, sources say.
Sources also said that The Blaze is choosing to shutter its cable channel because contracts with distributors prevent much of the content airing on TV to also be posted online, which is a drag on the business model since The Blaze is largely a digital concern.
Cable companies carrying The Blaze have already been notified that the channel will cease to exist, Blaze Media CEO Tyler Cardon confirmed.
"Yes, we've sent notices of non-renewal to our cable partners, whose support we've appreciated over the years," Cardon told THR. "Given our record growth this year on our direct-to-consumer SVOD business, podcasts, various web properties and other digital distribution channels, it has become a conflict to continue programming a traditional, legacy cable channel."
Beck founded The Blaze with fanfare in 2011 as a conservative media firm that might someday compete with Fox News, but even given Beck's popularity with his target audience, insiders say the growth he envisioned wasn't sustainable and some bold moves didn't pay off. In the past few years, top management has departed amid lower-level layoffs. At one time, Beck was even planning a Blaze push into movies.
The Blaze also has more competition now than it had at its founding, one outlet being Ben Shapiro's The Daily Wire, which was rumored to be in discussions to merge with The Blaze, though a deal never materialized. Online, The Blaze reached 5.9 million unique visitors in September, according to Comscore, which is slightly more than web rivals Breitbart News (5.5 million) and The Daily Caller (4.5 million) but far behind Fox News (95 million).
In December 2018, THR first reported that The Blaze agreed to merge with CRTV, the company that had previously been known as LevinTV, which was founded by conservative radio star Mark Levin. Beck said at the time it was on the hunt to acquire other assets. "This is the beginning of scale," he said. "Anyone who loves the Bill of Rights and pursues honesty, I want them all in. We're an open book. Let's talk."
After merging with CRTV, the combined firm (and therefore the parent of The Blaze) was dubbed Blaze Media, with on-air talent including Levin, Beck, Steven Crowder, former Fox News host Eric Bolling and Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame.
While an insider says Blaze Media is fielding offers for an outright sale, others say the firm is expected to thrive once it sheds its linear cable channel, as the website, podcasts, radio shows and books remain very popular even in a crowded conservative landscape that also includes Salem Media Group.
During its growth mode, The Blaze was losing money, though after at least 20 percent of its staff was let go, it was earning a profit. In fact, Beck said the company was profitable for about a year prior to its merger with CRTV.
"We worked hard to make sure we're in the black," Beck told THR at the time of the merger. "If we had spoken to CRTV a couple of years ago, it would have been a different story. We talked about a merger when neither of us needs it. That's the best time."
Alex Weprin contributed reporting.