Losing the Underdog Strategy

It happened to Coors. It happened to Krispy Kreme. And now it may happen to Fox News.

Fox News clobbered the other cable news networks, its 8.1 million viewers more than tripling its own election night prime-time performance in 2000. NBC, ABC and CBS, on the other hand, lost millions of viewers this year, according to Nielsen Media Research. And Fox News actually came closer to CBS in the ratings than CNN did to Fox News.

Yet the ratings bonanza presents a conundrum for Fox. It has long presented itself as the scrappy underdog, but its executives acknowledge that such a tactic becomes trickier when the network is ranked No. 1 among cable news channels.

Underdog companies are cool in part because they are anti-establishment. What happens when they go mainstream? Usually growth slows and they lose that edge they used to have. Will Fox News continue to play the underdog card, or transition to a different approach as an industry leader? I don't know, but my guess is the strategy will stay largely the same. It is said that the biggest barrier to change is success, which is why market leaders don't stay market leaders forever.