Bill O’Reilly was on his way to the airport in Rome on Wednesday when he found out Fox News had decided to let him go. The details of his departure have yet to be worked out, and he was not yet thinking about his life after Fox.
But when he turns his attention to his future, he will have no shortage of options. Though his sexual harassment settlements may pose an obstacle, O’Reilly’s loyal fanbase presents a major opportunity to conservative networks looking to grow their audiences.
“Our management here is obviously discussing it,” said Charles Herring, president of One America News Network, a conservative cable channel that reaches 35 million households. “Clearly he’s built one heck of a brand. Clearly there’s been accusations that need to be looked at also.”
Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, said he would be “very open to talking” with O’Reilly about joining the network, which reaches 10 million homes via cable and broadcast.
“I think some of the allegations made against him were serious, but he’s never been convicted in my mind of anything,” Ruddy says. “I think he still remains a very hot property in the media word.”
Either option would be a step down from Fox, which reaches 100 million households and paid O’Reilly $20 million a year. But Ruddy argues that the “fraying” of Fox News has created an opportunity for other conservative outlets.
“I think there’s a lot of players willing to invest,” he says.
O’Reilly, 67, also has enough of a profile that he could strike out on his own. After parting ways with Fox in 2011, Glenn Beck launched a TV and radio show on the Blaze, his multi-media platform. The Blaze has reportedly reached as many as 300,000 paying subscribers and is available in 13 million cable households.
“I think it’s harder than it looks,” cautions Scott Baker, the site’s former editor-in-chief. “Obviously O’Reilly is in a position to do better at that than nearly anyone. But we’re talking about people at different life stages. The question will be how much does he want it.”
“My guess is he loves that idea of being America’s anchorman,” Baker says. “Revenge is a powerful motivator. But having to build something from the ground up, it puts you in your place a little bit.”
A less strenuous option would be to launch a podcast, which he could do from his own house for minimal cost. Nancy Grace, who left HLN last year, now does a daily Crime Stories podcast.
O’Reilly already has a “premium membership” plan on his website. Subscribers pay $4.95 per month for access to a newsletter, a message board, and the “O’Reilly Factor” archives. The site is rumored to have at least 20,000 paying subscribers, bringing in more than $1 million a year.
O’Reilly could launch a daily podcast or streaming show and substantially grow the premium subscriber base.
With relatively little effort, he could replace much of his lost earnings from Fox.