When “Outnumbered” launches on Fox News Channel today at noon, viewers may tune in solely to see whether argument erupts along gender lines created by the program’s eyebrow-raising central conceit of four female anchors and one male guest holding forth on the issues of the day.
But executives really just want audience members to stick around for the news.
“It needs to be a news show first and foremost,” said Jay Wallace, the network’s senior vice president for news. “We needed to have a show that would be nimble enough to deal with the news, having journalism at the heart of this.”
Even so, it’s hard not to look closely at the way “Outnumbered” is packaged. The show is unlike anything else on the cable-news daytime schedule. At the same hour, MSNBC features veteran correspondent Andrea Mitchell at noon while CNN offers “Legal View” with Ashleigh Banfield. Fox News will sport a five-person panel that is likely to be different every day and that, if you focus overmuch on the title, has the potential to break out into a he-said-she-said (times four) sort of discussion if someone is passionate enough about a particular topic.
“There are going to be some natural spark points,” said Harris Faulkner, the Fox News weekend anchor who will be a member of the rotating “Outnumbered” panel.
Even so, Fox News executives suggest that the prospect of on-air squabbling may be more of a hook to gain viewers’ interest than daily reality. “It will obviously first start out with the news of the day. There could be political. There could be social, man versus woman, you never know,” said Bill Shine, Fox News’ executive vice president of programming. During recent rehearsals for the program, he recalled, a segment about a high school that was looking to ban yoga pants prompted ”a broad spectrum of opinion” among the panelists, especially those who had kids. Yet the warm-up efforts also focused on such topics as the crisis in Crimea, March Madnesss, Katy Perry’s definition of feminism, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 270 and even deliberation on whether women should go to college to find a husband.
The 21st Century Fox-owned network is trying to find “new and interesting ways to present the news,” said Shine, who includes the opinionated panel show “The Five” and Megyn Kelly’s new primetime show on the network as other examples of that mission. Shine said the initial idea for “Outnumbered” came from Roger Ailes, the network’s chairman and chief executive.
In addition to Faulkner and Fox Business Network’s Sandra Smith, other female members of the rotating panel will include: Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, co-hosts of the “The Five,” and Fox News Channel contributors Jedediah Bila, Katie Pavlich and Kirsten Powers. Each of the panelists will keep their other duties on Fox News or Fox Business. The sole male member will change each day.
The “one lucky guy” – as Faulkner refers to the male guest – will initially come from within the Fox News ranks, said Shine. As the show develops, he said, “I could see a time when, in coming months, there could be a large number of outsiders who happen to e in town and want to try to be ‘Outnumbered.’” If an actor or author is making the rounds to promote a book or push a movie, he said, the network might ask, “Ok, instead of doing four minutes, why don’ t you sit in for the hour?”
To accommodate the new show, Fox News will split “Happening Now,” a show anchored by Jon Scott and Jenna Lee that was running from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., into two one-hour blocks that will air before and after “Outnumbered.”
Fox News was already trumping its competitors in the noon hour. According to Nielsen, Fox News Channel delivered more than 1 million viewers overall and nearly 200,000 in the advertiser-preferred demo of viewers between 25 and 54 year to date as of April 18. Now executives will have to see if “Outnumbered” delivers even more advantageous math.