Just over a year after he left Fox News, the conservative commentator Glenn Beck is returning to television.
The doughy-faced talk show host -- known for his rabble-rousing rhetoric and Tea Party rallies -- has just inked a deal with the satellite broadcaster Dish Network, which will carry Beck's 24-hour online news network, The Blaze, beginning Wednesday.
In September 2011, Beck launched Glenn Beck TV (GBTV), an Internet television network, which later merged with TheBlaze.com, Beck's right-wing website. The Blaze network has since attracted about 300,000 subscribers, according to Beck's own estimate. Its deal with Dish Network coincides with GBTV's first anniversary.
No additional programming has been announced for The Blaze, whose current roster includes several news and opinion shows, as well as the reality series "Independence USA" and the kids' show "Liberty Treehouse." Beck himself also hosts a daily talk show, and will continue to do so following the deal.
Ratings had been slipping on Beck's Fox News program prior to his departure. He had gone from 2.7 million viewers in the first three months of 2010 to less than 2 million during the same period in 2011. Meanwhile, Beck's many critics contended that his viewpoints had grown too extreme, and toward the end of his run, the list of sponsors that had refused to advertise on his program had ballooned to almost 400, according to the Daily News.
Still, Beck was ranked among the top three talk show hosts on cable TV, and he could probably have worked out his differences with Fox had he not decided to focus his energy on more entrepreneurial pursuits. At the time, Beck said he did not want to pursue building a traditional cable network because he did not want to surrender creative control to a large media company. However, he has apparently had a change of heart.
"A year later, everything has changed," said Blaze CEO Chris Balfe in a blog post. "We have the best staff, the best talent, world-class facilities and great distribution partners lined up, and we've done it all while ensuring that we answer to no one except our own audience."
Beck's foray into satellite TV echoes a similar move made last year by the daytime queen Oprah Winfrey, who left her longtime talk show to run her own cable network, OWN. While the two hosts are diametrically opposite in their ideologies (Oprah is a vast champion of liberal causes from same-sex marriage to reproductive rights), they are similarly adept at attracting fiercely loyal audiences. Oprah's OWN has struggled in the ratings since its debut, but the network has received a boost in recent months, thanks largely to Winfrey's increased airtime. Similarly, Beck has proven his ability to rile up his base with such events as the "Restoring Honor" rally, a 2010 march in Washington, D.C., attended by anywhere between 70,000 to half a million people -- depending on who did the counting.
The comparisons between Beck and Winfrey may stop there, however. At his best, Beck attracts about 8 million listeners to his radio show, according to Talkers magazine. But that still puts him behind such professional blowhards as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and even Michael Savage. Oprah, conversely, remains unmatched in her daytime prowess, even in the face of various newcomers -- such as Katie Couric and Jeff Probst -- who have come to claim her crown. On average, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" pulled in 42 million viewers a week.
Sorry, Glenn. Size matters.
The Blaze will be available to Dish Network subscribers starting at 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday afternoon.