Glenn Beck unleashes his dogs of war

Published: Tuesday, May 29 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck meets with fans at Deseret Book in downtown Salt Lake City Friday, July 16, 2010. Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News

Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News

Read more: Glenn Beck: Living large in Texas, and richer than ever

Late last year at a swank hotel in Manhattan, Glenn Beck sat in a golden chair on a dais, looking a bit like a king.

Beck had come to the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Park Avenue to accept the Defender of Israel Award, a prestigious recognition that had previously gone to such foreign-policy luminaries as Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bob Dole.

As the Zionist Organization of America's distinguished honoree, Beck watched a procession of A-list power players precede him to the podium. Warm-up acts included U.S. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and, in a special video message singing Beck's praises, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Casino king and Venetian Hotel boss Sheldon Adelson — the 16th richest person on earth, and the man responsible for recently funneling $10 million into the super PAC that supports Newt Gingrich's — had the honor of introducing Beck, who had the honor of delivering the keynote address.

Finally, Beck rose to speak. He wore a silver bow tie, white point-collar dress shirt, black coat and tortoise shell eyeglasses. The salt-and-pepper stubble on his chin glittered as bright-white camera flashes enveloped him every couple seconds.

Standing at the microphone Beck started slowly, meekly reading some prepared notes. But ever the performer, he wouldn't disappoint. He built momentum to a crescendo, and left the stage with a rousing ovation ringing in his ears.

To the casual observer these images of rich and powerful titans feting Glenn Beck in uptown Manhattan may come as a surprise. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that the mainstream media was more or less declaring him dead, or at least irrelevant. Last summer, Fox News cancelled Beck's show, meaning he'd suddenly lost an audience of 2 million. But as last December's event in Manhattan illustrates, Beck's political influence is still significant, and that's partly because his media empire isn't crumbling at all--in fact it's expanding and his reach could get bigger than ever before.

The Reinvention of Glenn Beck

Beck's media empire is housed under the umbrella of Mercury Radio Arts Inc., a multi-platform conglomerate he wholly owns. Mercury Radio Arts' holdings include Beck's daily syndicated radio show, "The Glenn Beck Program"; news website TheBlaze.com; and book imprint Mercury Ink.

When Fox News and Beck jointly announced in April that they would amicably split before the end of 2011, popular opinion held that the decision would negatively impact Beck's earning power and cachet in a big way. It turns out, though, that by monetizing his core viewership through GBTV — an Internet television venture that launched Sept. 12 — Beck is actually raking in considerably more money than ever before.

Here's how: GBTV is only available to paying subscribers. For $4.95 a month viewers can watch "Glenn Beck Show," a daily two-hour, televised talk show that bears a strong resemblance to what Beck used to do for Fox. For a $9.95 monthly fee, Beck acolytes gain access to all of GBTV's programming options. Content can be streamed live or on-demand, with video archives dating back 30 days. Mercury Radio Arts confirms that when GBTV started up in September, more than 230,000 paying subscribers were already onboard.

So when Forbes Magazine plugged in forecasts from research analyst Rich Greenfield of the international brokerage firm BTIG, Forbes concluded: "GBTV is already generating revenues of $27 million a year from subscription fees. … Greenfield envisions Beck increasing that conversion rate (by a multiplier of five), yielding a subscriber base of over 1 million. In that scenario (GBTV) would be generating $135 million in subscription revenues."

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