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‘O’Reilly Factor’ Ratings Soar on Fox News as Controversy Flares

Bill O’Reilly is having a difficult week, but he certainly isn’t alone while he moves through it.

More than 3.76 million people tuned in to Tuesday night’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” an increase of 20% from the same day’s telecast last week, according to data from Nielsen Media Research, despite a very public backlash to a Saturday New York Times report  that five women had received payments coming to about $13 million in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about accusations related to sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by  O’Reilly, the veteran Fox News broadcaster who is the linchpin of the network’s primetime lineup. O’Reilly in a statement said his fame had made him a target, but that no complaint about him had ever been made through Fox’s human-resources hotline.

 His “Factor” broadcast last night captured an average of 628,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, an increase of 11% from last week’s Tuesday-night audience.  What’s more, his show won more viewers overall than either ABC’s “Imaginary Mary” or NBC’s “Trial and Error.”

The robust viewership shows the tough road Fox News is walking along these days. Even as its programs attract a robust and passionate audience, it is making headlines of its own as a series of lawsuits being made public reveal a disturbing internal culture. In recent days, suits have been filed accusing a former Fox comptroller of racist behavior and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes of sexually harassing a current Fox News contributor. Ailes has denied the charges.

The controversy is, no doubt, fueling some portion of the viewership. Some viewers are no doubt tuning in to see if the anchor will address his current situation. He has not so far this week in two broadcasts Monday and Tuesday.

A large number of advertisers have announced their decision to suspend their ties with “The O’Reilly Factor,” but the anchor’s audience, it seems, has not. According to Nielsen, the show was the most-watched cable-news program Tuesday among total viewers and the 25-54 demographic.

Advertisers including Jenny Craig, GlaxoSmithKline, Mitsubishi Motors, BMW and Ainsworth Pet Nutrition have all moved ads slated to run during “Factor” to other Fox News programs. One media buyer suggested marketers will have a hard time abandoning the program because of its strong, steady ratings performance.

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