Fox Breaks Ranks With Cable News on Streaming Access Amid Virus Crisis

Lachlan Murdoch - Getty - H 2019
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While CNN and MSNBC offer full online viewing via sign-in through a cable provider, Fox Corp. properties will be made available free.

Amid cord-cutting as well as a coronavirus pandemic that is changing viewer consumption, Fox Corp. is taking a temporary step away from the cable bundle and making its television properties freely available to stream. 

Fox News will now become available to stream without paying for cable, the company said Wednesday. The move was described as a partnership with Fox's pay TV providers.

Cable news channels like CNN and MSNBC are available to view online with a cable provider sign-in (both offer 10-minute previews of live coverage before asking for a sign-in). CNN dropped its cable authentication for a coronavirus town hall on March 13 and plans on doing the same for a follow-up event on March 19, but the channel isn't planning on making its full feed available for free. 

"Our highest duty as a company is to provide the individuals and communities we serve with information and analysis to help educate and protect them during dangerous times," Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement. "That is why we are today making Fox News and Fox Television stations available to everyone in the country."

The move from Fox arrives one day after the slimmed-down conglomerate acquired the free, ad-supported streaming service Tubi for $440 million. The streamer offers 20,000 film and TV titles, including from studios like Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM.

It's unclear how long Fox News and its 29 local Fox TV stations will be made available free under the agreement with its distribution partners. However, more Americans are increasingly cutting ties with cable bundles. An estimated 6 million-plus households cut the cord in 2019 alone, per a MoffettNathanson report on Feb. 19.

While Fox may be first among the major cable news outlets to offer full online viewing of its channels, other media giants are making moves to bring more of their content to the streaming space. On Monday, NBCUniversal said that it'd be bringing its current film releases to on-demand platforms, temporarily collapsing the traditional theatrical window for those titles as most U.S. theater chains shutter. 

On the decision to go free for now, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox TV stations chief Jack Abernethy added in a joint statement: "We also want to acknowledge and thank our distribution partners, who played an important role in helping make these valuable news sources available more broadly."