Fox News Shakes Up its Long-Stable Program Lineup

Fox news shakeup

Ad buyers see move to keep momentum in post-election year

Fox News Channel has long burnished slogans such as “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide.” But it may just as well have used this old chestnut: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

For years, the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-newser has dominated its category, and as such, it’s had little reason to make the schedule and program changes more common at rivals CNN and MSNBC.

In 2013, however, FNC is planning some changes of its own. Earlier this month, the news outlet announced it will place popular anchor Megyn Kelly in primetime, with a new schedule to be unveiled at a later date. Veteran “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson is moving to a new daytime show from her ayem perch in early fall, while former “The View” co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck is slated to join the network’s morning program in mid-September. Veteran media reporter and CNN media critic Howard Kurtz joined Fox News Channel July 1 to host a retooled version of the weekend program known as “Fox News Watch.”

“They haven’t made as many lineup changes, so this is sort of unique,” said Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, in a recent interview. “It’s getting some attention.”

The nips and tweaks may show Fox News Channel in the process of moving forward after its 2012 election-year coverage, a period of aftermath, when ratings can ebb in comparison to viewership for coverage of much-scrutinized political events. To be sure, Fox News Channel continues to trump CNN and MSNBC handily in primetime audiences between 25 and 54 – the demographic advertisers seek from news programs. But the network did see some slackening in its first quarter in so-called “commercial ratings” – or measures of viewership for the ads that support its programs – for that demo, according to Billie Gold, vice president and director of buying and programming research at Carat, a media-buying firm that counts General Motors among its clients.

Season to date as of July 7, Fox News Channel’s primetime programming across the week lured an average of 367,000 viewers between ages 25 and 54, according to Nielsen. MSNBC’s primetime lineup drew an average of 271,000 in the 2013 time-period, while CNN attracted approximately 235,000, Nielsen said.

“Fox News gets dollars because it garners bigger ratings” and gives advertisers a chance to pitch older, upscale viewers, said Gold, who thinks the coming changes could lends its schedule “a zap of fresh hosts and shows that might bring viewers in.”

FNC may be “trying to maintain some momentum” in a post-election year, said Brian Hughes, a senior vice president and head of audience analysis at Magna Global, a media-buying firm owned by Interpublic Group. The move involving Kelly, he added, could be an attempt to “draw in some more female viewers in primetime.”

A Fox News spokeswoman said the network declined to make executives available for comment.

Fox News Channel’s primetime lineup has largely been inviolate. Bill O’Reilly has held forth at 8 p.m. since 1996 with “The O’Reilly Factor” (known as “The O’Reilly Report” in its first two years). Sean Hannity has occupied the 9 p.m. slot since 1996, sharing it with Alan Colmes until 2009. And “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren” has been in the 10 p.m. slot since 2002, though its ratings have shown signs of weakness this year. Other dayparts are also relatively sturdy. Carlson has been on the curvy couch at “Fox & Friends” since 2006.

In contrast, MSNBC recently gave Chris Hayes its daily 8 p.m. slot, relegating Ed Schultz (whose show had aired weeknights 6 to 10) to weekends. CNN runs Anderson Cooper’s program at both 8 and 10 p.m., but it has stumbled in its efforts to create a more durable three-hour block, as anyone who may have stuck with Paula Zahn, Campbell Brown and Eliot Spitzer over the years might be able to relate. CNN’s longest-lasting personality, Larry King, departed in 2010 after 15 years on the network’s air.

Fox News Channel appears to be in the midst of a larger effort. In addition to the changes scheduled for primetime and daytime, the network has in 2013 signed Tucker Carlson as co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend”; former presidential candidates Herman Cain and Dennis Kucinich and, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to contributor roles; and, in June, announced the return of the colorful former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a contributor as well.

Compare this spate of activity to 2012, when the only new talent hire announced during the year, according to a list of press releases posted on the network’s media site, was that of former New Yorker staffer Peter J. Boyer. He joined Fox News Channel as an editor-at-large.

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  1. Karen Emmett says:

    Bill O’Reilly is the absolute best show on television. Please do not capitulate to the attempts to varnish his reputation and thus take his program off the evening news. I was once a fan of the Today Show but can no longer watch It due to the bias of the “anchors” and Roker making a complete fool of himself. Mr. O’Reilly’s program is a huge asset to Fox News!!! My husband and I just tried to watch his show but some moron decided to put Shepherd and Baier on at the end of the show. I can watch those two at other times of the day. Mr O’Reilly’s hour should not be tampered with in any way. Thank you for allowing me to know what a truly great news program is and should be- Bill O’Reilly must remain on the air as long as he is willing to be there for his fans.

  2. Carol Kerr says:

    This article is all old news! You need to post current changed. What the heck is going on with your Sunday morning programming? And where is Outnumbered? And why all the repeat programming — Happening Now and 4 hours of Fox & Friends Sunday? It would be nice if you let your FAITHFUL viewers know what’s happening. You could lose us, you know!

  3. Bonnie says:

    I like the new lineup changes. Looking forward to Elizabeth H on the morning show. She was too good for the view, which I can’t stand to watch. It won’t hurt anything for Hannidy to move to 10. I’ll still watch him. I like change and these r all for the good.

  4. Lioness says:

    While you are making changes at Fox – please get rid of Geraldo! I thought surely when he tweeted his “towel” picture we might see less of him, but no! He is right back with that nasty looking mustache. I always change the channel on Fridays when he is on.

  5. Lioness says:

    Hope they will continue to be a voice of reason and sanity in this crazy world we are living in. I am watching the news as I type. I am amazed at how corrupt our government and this administration is. If Fox caves and becomes another network like CNN, etc., then we, the people, have no hope of knowing the truth.

  6. michael Reed says:

    If fox becomes just another progressively liberal outlet then we will have lost our only chance at any balance in media…it is more popular than the other two big hitters because its the Only ONE that does present the other side..If they try to mix it up they will not gain but lose viewers..Juan Williams and his views pushed the needle too far the wrong way if you look at ratings since his inception…

  7. Jim Schwarz says:

    IF IT WORKS DON’T FIX IT!!! FOX IS REALLY SCREWING UP!!! KNOCK IT OFF!!!

  8. Marty Smith says:

    Why Would you move Sean Hanity one of Best on Fox there are a lot that need to go before Sean I THINK Fox will be sorry Sean is great and he is HONEST PLEASE reconsider and KEEP SEAN on FOX

  9. Millie vinson says:

    Love FOx News..Could Soooo do without the perennial child Clayton Morris..and the increasingly liberal Allyson Camerota…the weekend show has long had probs..Dave Briggs would have been the one to keep! Love Tucker..breath fresh air. Seems as if most of the previous comments were from Libs..lol
    The Gretchen change is interesting..Ii think she’s on her way out of Fox..much thebway of E.D. Hill. You could also do with less of Shep Smith..Love Hannity….Oreilly needs to be watched in small doses..ego..ego..

  10. WANDA SELLERS says:

    DEAREST FOX NEWS, I AM A FOX NEWS JUNKIE. FEEL LIKE YOUR CIVERAGE IS THE BEST O MN T.V. MY HUSBAND AND I ARE REPUBLICANS AND ENJOY YOUR GUESTS. THE FIVE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES. OUR SUPPER HAS TO BE FINISHED ,BY OREILLY AND WE WATCH THE REST OF THE EVENING. WE ADMIRE ALL THE YOUNG WOMEN ON FOX, AS WE ARE THE PARENTS OF THREE DAUGHTERS AND TWO GRANDDAUGHTERS, THEY ARE GOOD ROLE MODELS FOR THE TEENAGE GRANDDAUGHTERS. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  11. Priscilla says:

    I am a big Fox fan but sometimes change the station after watching Hannity for so long. He gets too radical. The Five is another show that I always watch but the remarks about Pres. Obama get pretty strong and I am no fan of Obama. Megyn Kelly is my favorite but I think putting her in prime time is a big mistake. She is perfect where she is and I miss her terribly when she is off.

    • Lioness says:

      I somewhat agree. Megan Kelly is definitely my favorite. I love to watch her where she is now. If they put her in at night, I will not be able to watch her hardly ever. I really don’t think this will be the best thing for her or the viewers. Gretchen seems to me to be aggravated all the time and I think she will like working by herself. She just doesn’t get Steve and Brian. I don’t think you should let Sean Hannity go either. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours to accommodate the talent you have. Hope the decisions that have been made work out.

      Oh, by the way, please tell the guest you have “fair and balanced” means you can hear what both sides are saying and then make up you mind. There is usually two or three people talking at one time and no one can be heard.

  12. MARY OBERG says:

    I love Fox News. Jon Scott is a favorite that new reduces himself to shouting down guests that do not agree with him. Chris Wallace Is excellent. I like Brett Bair and the man that cohosts the early morning news show!.
    O’Reily either has to have a class in etiquette or he has to go. I do not watch him anymore because if a guest disagrees he just belittles and shouts them down until they run out of time. That is neither fair or balanced.
    Hannity is in the same boat. He has lost all credibility and I do not watch much of him anymore either. He was completely out of line during the Martin/Zimmerman case. Who made im a god that he could interview the murderer and let the defense use his interview instead of making Zimmerman get on the stand. I don’t care if racism wasn’t proven. Zimmerman disobeyed a direct order from police and got out of his car? Hannity you are a news reporter, not a decider of judicial cases.
    Greta has always been excellent but she is beginning to show those same argumentative tactics too.

    Fox is my news of choice, but they need to get back to reporting instead of SCREAMING!!!

  13. karen sadowski says:

    If FNC hires Sarah Palin I will no longer watch any show she’s on, period. She’s a do nothing loud mouth.

    • Virginia Shigley says:

      I agree about O’Reilly and Hannity. They have to go. No fair and balanced there!! O’Reilly thinks he is the only one that can solve all the problems. He should be replaced with someone that is not as arrogant as he is and will let his guests speak. And why he thinks Dennis Miller is such a great guest I can’t figure out. All Miller does is rant and very seldom makes any sense. I start out watching O’Reilly and always end up switching stations because I can’t stand his rants.

  14. Shirley says:

    PLEASE stop the constant bickering on your shows. Frequently you can’t hear what 3 different people are saying at one time!! It’s like kids fighting…. and it gets very irritating. And I’m a long time Fox watcher!!

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