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Tucker Carlson’s Exit: What Advertisers Need To Know

Published: May. 01, 2023

It’s official: Tucker Carlson is no longer with Fox News.

For advertisers, media buyers, and brands, this poses a big question. Where will Carlson’s viewers go — and how will we be able to find them?

Cable news is a valuable reach vehicle across many strategic target audiences, so we’ve been digging in with our Data Science team to determine what the impact might be for advertisers.

But before we forecast the future, it’s important we look to the past.

Looking to the Past: Bill O’Reilly’s Departure

The last popular news anchor to depart Fox News unexpectedly was Bill O’Reilly back in April of 2017. The show generated $446 million in ad revenue from 2014 to 2016 with an average of 33 commercials a night.

According to our TV+ platform, ratings declined for his time slot upon his exit — and the overall network viewership took about an 8% hit.

Graph showcasing drop in Fox News' viewership after O'Reilly's departure.

However, this was short-lived. After about a month, Fox News network viewership bounced back to pre-O’Reilly departure levels.

Tucker Carlson, his replacement, saw over 600,000 viewers in his debut on Fox News. The show went on to average nearly 3 million viewers daily in the first quarter of 2018 — lower than O’Reilly’s last two years but better than his performance pre-Trump, according to Yahoo! Entertainment.

Carlson’s success continued to grow throughout his time on Fox.

  • From January 1st to April 23rd in 2023, Tucker Carlson Tonight comprised 6.75% of all live, linear minutes watched on Fox News from Jan. 1st to April 23rd in 2023.
  • Since January 1st, Carlson’s show has ranked the 26th most watched program in terms of linear watch-time across all networks, and the 5th most watched program during primetime hours across all networks.

What does this mean for Fox News post-Carlson?

Our team found that Monday night’s Fox News Tonight, the first 8pm temporary replacement hosted by Brian Kilmeade, saw a 21% decline versus Tucker Carlson’s average viewership. That said, Hannity at 9pm did not see any difference in viewership.

If we continue to see an overall delivery decline on the network post-Tucker Carlson, we anticipate it to rebound in a similar fashion as in 2017.

Why? A look at the data shows Fox News’ ability to rebound in a matter of months during times of uncertainty. Furthermore, Fox News has exclusive rights to the first GOP debate in August, with campaign coverage to follow throughout the next several months. In other words, exclusive coverage of the highly anticipated GOP debate is likely to bring in viewers and boost viewership.

We also know O’Reilly’s 2016 and 2017 ratings soared due in part to the 2016 presidential election and beginning of President Donald Trump in the White House. In 2016, O’Reilly’s show saw an average of more than 3.3 million total viewers, and about 573,000 viewers in the coveted 25-54 year-old demographic. The big takeaway: Elections are a huge factor in boosting viewership, and Fox News is just months away from one of the biggest debates of the year.

What Are Audiences Watching in the Interim?

To demonstrate just how powerful maximizing unique reach can be, we took a look at audiences who watched Carlson’s show in the last months. Our goal is to show that even without a spot on Carlson’s show, you can still reach these audiences through our powerful TV+ platform.

For a campaign of $1 million, our platform selected 64 networks across all of national linear TV — some that may even seem counterintuitive, like MSNBC. Here’s a snippet of what that plan looks like:

Graph of plan using TV+

While this was just an experiment, it goes to show that viewers won’t disappear when their favorite talkshow does. Rather, they turn to other channels.

Interested in seeing how Simulmedia can strategically find your brand’s target audience and help you take control during this uncertain time? Let’s talk.