Madison Avenue has rediscovered Fox News Channel’s 8 p.m. hour.
Mercedes-Benz, one of the first advertisers to announce it was yanking commercials from Fox News Channel’s flagship program, “The O’Reilly Factor” in the midst of a recent controversy surrounding its host, has returned to that program’s timeslot now that a new offering is in its place. The automaker joined other former O’Reilly advertisers like Jenny Craig and custom-shirt maker Untuckit.com in support of the ousted anchor’s successor, Tucker Carlson.
Fox News’ inaugural broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” at 8 p.m. carried what appeared to be 18 national spots from marketers including Honda, ExxonMobil, Choice Hotels, BP and Infiniti. In contrast, some of Fox News’ more recent airings of “The O’Reilly Factor,” with and without Bill O’Reilly at the helm, carried as few as ten ads, many of them from direct-response marketers and lesser-known brands. O’Reilly’s last appearance on the show was on Tuesday, April 11.
As Fox News Channel and its parent, 21st Century Fox, continue to face litigation surrounding a questionable workplace culture at the cable-news network, the return of national advertisers to what has been the outlet’s most-watched hour should offer some relief. Dozens of marketers abandoned O’Reilly’s show in the wake of recent disclosures he had made settlements totaling around $13 million after being accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. O’Reilly has said his fame made him a target and he made payments to protect his children. Fox News and O’Reilly parted ways last week.
A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz last week suggested the automaker would give new consideration to Fox News’ 8 p.m. programming after the network announced a new primetime lineup. “When we decided to remove our ads from O’Reilly, we reassigned them to other Fox News programming,” said Donna Boland, manager of corporate communications for Mercedes-Benz USA, via an emailed statement. “If whatever comes into the new slot make sense for us, we’ll evaluate it when the time comes.”
Carlson has proved a durable ratings draw, notching viewership in two different time slots since he began hosting weekday programs at Fox News Channel in November. His “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has run at 7 p.m., 9 p.m, and now, 8 p.m.
Speaking to viewers in the opening moments of Monday’s broadcast, Carlson paid tribute to O’Reilly. “What O’Reilly did was not easy,” said Carlson. “Bill O’Reilly set a high bar, and I’m going to do my best to meet it. Thanks for sticking with us.”