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Laura Ingraham Is Under Madison Ave.’s Microscope Again

Laura Ingraham has become a hot potato in recent months for advertisers on Fox News Channel. She isn’t cooling down.

A spokeswoman for InterActive Corp. says the digital media and commerce company will no longer run ads for Home Advisor or Angie’s List during Ingraham’s “The Ingraham Angle” on Fox News, raising a new bout of speculation over whether Madison Avenue will return to full backing of the veteran host in an era when viewers are more polarized over political and cultural topics and can take to social media to express their frustration. Some advocates did just that after Ingraham on Monday night suggested detention facilities for children being taken from migrants entering the U.S. illegally were like “summer camps.” Later in the broadcast, she added more context to her remarks, telling viewers she had relied upon a report in the San Diego Union Tribune in making her comments. IAC’s decision was reported previously by Politico. 

“There’s been no impact on our business and new advertisers continue to opt in for our powerful primetime line-up,” Fox News said in a statement.

Ingraham has been under a microscope since March of this year, when she took a Twitter swipe at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, one of the students who has spoken out about gun control prominently since a February 14th shooting incident there left 17 people dead.  In response, Hogg posted on social media a list of recent advertisers in her program culled from Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog group, and urged followers to pressure them to remove their commercials from Ingraham’s show. Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, TripAdvisor, Nutrish, Expedia and Hulu – a video-streaming company partly owned by Fox News parent 21st Century Fox – were among the advertisers who said they would no longer advertise in her program.

Their decision appears to have carried some ramifications. Ingraham’s shows carried an average of between 15 and 16 minutes of commercials before her the March incident, according to Kantar Media, a tracker of ad spending. The average over the past four weeks has totaled between nine minutes and ten minutes, according to the research firm. On some nights it has been higher, moving as high as 13 minutes per hour last week.

Advertisers sometimes trim back on commercial weight toward the end of the second quarter, as consumers get ready for summer, but Kantar’s chief research officer believes the recent defections have had a lasting effect on support for the show. “In the past several telecasts, Fox News has increased the paid commercial load in Ingraham’s show by 3 to 5 minutes per hour. But even with the extra ad time, the composition of sponsors has not changed much. It’s still heavily weighted towards direct response marketers,” said Jon Swallen, in a statement. “The advertisers who declared a boycott have held firm in their avoidance of the program,” he added. Direct-response advertisers typically pay below-market rates in exchange for allowing TV network to run its commercials in a more flexible manner.

Viewership for “Angle” appears to be on the upswing. In May, her program was the third most-watched among viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming. Only colleague Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow won more. “Ingraham Angle” was the fourth most-watched cable-news program overall that month. She won 523,000 viewers in the demo and 2.59 million viewers overall. In the first quarter, “Ingraham Angle” captured an average of 505,000 viewers between 25 and 54 and nearly 2.49 million overall.

Most advertisers shy from controversy. Many have fled from “Full Frontal,” a TBS series led by comedienne Samantha Bee that isn’t afraid to use a hard boot when necessary. But the program’s ad support has fallen noticeably after Bee on May 30 used a vulgar epithet related to female anatomy to refer to Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser. Where the series typically airs an average of between six and seven minutes of ads, it has carried less than two minutes in each of the first two weeks following Bee’s hot take. This week, the program appeared to have won a few more sponsors and a person familiar with the matter suggested TBS expects more to come on board when the next “Full Frontal” broadcast airs on July 18.

Fox News executives have rallied around Ingraham, who has helped kick off a new programming era at the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet. A popular conservative radio host, Ingraham has long served as a Fox contributor and has never been afraid to criticize politicians and movements. “We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts,” the network said in early April. In the current national moment, however, her words – and those of many others – are being scrutinized like never before.

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