The number of minutes of paid advertising on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program fell more than two thirds by the end of last week as advertisers scrambled to distance themselves from the host’s sexual harassment scandal. O’Reilly has begun to bounce back — but with little apparent help from the premium advertisers who bolted his show.
According to research from Kantar Media, “The O’Reilly Factor” hit a low April 7 with only 4 minutes and 40 seconds of paid advertising. That’s down 69% from the 14 minutes and 32 seconds of paid ads that the show averaged March 6-31.
“The O’Reilly Factor” began last week at normal levels, boasting 16 minutes and 10 seconds of paid ads on April 3, the first weekday after the New York Times reported that O’Reilly and Fox News had paid $13 million to women accusing the host of sexual harassment. But tremors began to be felt the following day as advertisers such as Mercedes Benz and BMW began shifting ads away from “The O’Reilly Factor” and to other Fox News programming. More than 60 advertisers publicly confirmed last week that they would not advertise during “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“All those advertisers who said they were pulling out ads — they meant it,” said Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar.
Each night last week week, “The O’Reilly Factor” featured fewer minutes of paid advertising than it did the evening prior. The first increases were seen in the Monday, April 10 telecast, which included 7 minutes and 20 seconds of paid ads. But that uptick does not necessarily mean that advertisers who left “The O’Reilly Factor” are returning.
“I think that’s Fox successfully reaching out to and is bringing in some direct-response advertisers — advertisers who don’t care about programming, who are more sensitive about cost,” said Swallen. Those advertisers run daypart schedules rather than program-specific schedules. They pay a lower price to advertise on Fox News, but in exchange give the network greater flexibility as to when their ad runs.
As Fox News has had to shift ads around its schedule, “The O’Reilly Factor” refugees have likely displaced some other, lower-cost advertisers. “Fox perhaps has moved some of those spots” to “The O’Reilly Factor,” Swallen said. According to Kantar, the April 10 telecast featured only 11 paid advertisers compared to 34 for April 3. Only three of those 11 had ads on the April 3 telecast.
The uptick from Friday to Monday, Swallen says, likely represents “the lead time that Fox News needed to reach out to those standby advertisers and make sure that they were okay with their spots moving into ‘O’Reilly.'” As for the days to come, Swallen says, “I would expect for this week the commercial load looks much more like last night than like last Thursday or Friday.”
In a statement last week, Paul Rittenberg, Fox News’ exec VP of advertising sales, said that the network was working with advertisers “to address their current concerns about ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’ At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”