Today, people with almost any interest can find a television show that pertains to them. There’s TV for retirees, TV for dogs, and as recent calls for boycott have highlighted, there’s also television for people who love the NRA. It’s called NRATV, and gun control activist organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and its affiliate Moms Demand Action want streaming services to drop the controversial channel.
Despite this call, and a protest today encouraging people to boycott Apple and Amazon, who carry the channel, NRATV is still available to stream on AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast. In response to mounting pressure to cut ties with NRATV, Roku released a statement on February 27 announcing that they would not drop the channel, adding that “voices on all sides of an issue or cause are free to operate a channel” on their platform. (As of yet, the other services have remained mum on how they will proceed with the channel.)
Before the February 14 school shooting in Parkdale, FL, NRATV was relatively unknown among the larger American television audience, and with good cause. The 24/7 streaming channel features 36 different programs, many of which seem like they’d have a niche appeal even considering the audience. Shows include Armed and Fabulous, a show about members of the group’s Women’s Leadership Program; NRA Gun Gurus, a show about “history’s most famous firearms;” and Under Wild Skies, a show highlighting big game hunters.
Even before it unveiled NRATV online in 2014, the organization had been dipping its toes into television programming. The NRA has produced or sponsored the shows American Rifleman and Friends of the NRA for the Outdoor Channel, as well as the Sportsman Channel shows 3-Gun Nation, Cam & Company, and Guns And Gold since at least 2013. (Cam & Company and American Rifleman have since found homes on NRATV. )
The channel’s fans may be happy to know they won’t be losing access to it, at least for now, but it’s unclear just how many viewers are even tuning in. Last month the New York Times reported that NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to release the size of NRATV’s online audience, and today The Guardian reported that the organization did not respond to their questions about viewership. (The NRA has yet to respond to The Outline’s own request for numbers.) The organization doesn’t seem to be rushing to brag about those numbers the way it frequently trots out its “more than” and “nearly” five million members figure (the modifier changes depending on where you look on their site).
Additionally, NRATV hides the subscriber count on its YouTube channel. (FastCompany has reported that number at 8 million.) But judging by the view counts on many of their videos, which most often barely reach the couple thousands let alone high hundreds, NRATV isn’t pulling in the views expected in the most gun-happy, TV-obsessed country in the world. According to its current stats on the NRATV YouTube about page, the channel has been in place since 2007 and has racked up 8 million views, perhaps an mpressive number for a lone YouTuber but a disappointing one for an organization that had over $45 million in unrestricted revenue in 2016, according to its annual report for that year. (NRATV’s Twitter account has 266,000 followers, though it’s unclear how much of an indicator that is of its programming regular audience.)
Still, even despite the mystery surrounding how popular NRATV actually is, the potential weakness of its channel has little effect bearing on its overall power. Right now, it’s more effective as a means for NRA advocates to cry “censorship!” even if it’s unclear how many people were ever paying attention to it in the first place. If you’re interested in what the fuss is about, you can find it on your favorite streaming service.