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  • Writer's pictureJim Gagen

The New Coke of Cable News

What’s New Coke?

For the younger folks, New Coke was launched in April of 1985 by Coca-Cola after several years of market share loss to Pepsi. Based on blind taste tests of nearly 200,000 consumers, Coca-Cola changed the formula for the soft drink to a sweeter tasting drink, which was more similar to Pepsi. In fact, top management at Coca-Cola was so confident in the reformulated drink, New Coke, they discontinued the 99-year classic recipe rather than having two brands. New Coke fell flat as loyal Coca-Cola consumers were initially outraged and then revolted. Many immediately stocked up on the old Coke and within weeks of the announcement Coca-Cola was receiving over 5,000 angry phone calls every day. By June the number of calls increased to 8,000 per day. Finally, in July Coca-Cola announced the reintroduction of the old Coke under the name of Coca-Cola Classic. New Coke was rebranded as Coke II in 1990 and eventually discontinued in 2002. New Coke remains as a classic example against not tampering with a well-established and successful brand and is considered one of the biggest marketing mistakes of our lifetime…Until Now.

Today's Marketing Mistake - Ticking Off Your Consumers (Viewers)

Not learning their lesson from New Coke about tampering with a well-established and successful brand, Fox News has recently become the New Coke of Cable News.

Well-Established and Successful Brand

Started in 1996 by Rupert Murdock, Fox News grew to become the top-rated cable news network in 2002, surpassing CNN despite the 16-year head-start by the latter. Recognized in Wikipedia as a “Republican-centered alternative to CNN”, Fox News maintained this leadership position in cable news through a very loyal following among its conservative viewers.

Ratings Juggernaut

Heading into this year’s election, Fox News was not only the top-rated cable news network, they were the top rated cable network in primetime with their top shows beating out sports and big programming on ABC, CBS and NBC.

In fact, they had the top three cable news shows including The Five, which airs at 5:00PM (EST) and outperformed any primetime show on CNN or MSNBC despite not airing in primetime.

Change in “Formula”

Despite its success and loyal following by conservatives, Fox News slowly started to change its formula with more involvement from Rupert Murdock’s sons, the hiring of the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, and increased air time for the more liberal Chris Wallace. Finally, on Election Night this year, Fox News not only joined the more liberal networks in calling many states for Joe Biden, they led many networks in calling the state of Arizona with only 73% of the vote counted. In fact, Newsmax, a possible heir apparent to the king of conservative cable news, has yet to call Arizona.

As one would expect, like Coca-Cola and New Coke, Fox News loyalists were outraged and revolted, as evidenced by the astonishing decline in viewership:

Old School Moral of the Story

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you by changing your successful formula!

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