Fox News’ broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Monday night featured just four ad breaks and very few big national commercials, relying instead on direct-response ads and sundry promos for other Fox News programs and properties distributed by its parent company, 21st Century Fox. The show featured a strong monologue by the host, who responded on TV for the first time to the revelation by liberal advocacy group Media Matters of troublesome remarks Carlson made years ago on a radio talk show about celebrities as well as a convicted cult leader who was known to have organized marriages between his adult male followers and underage girls.
“Since the day we went on the air, they’ve been working hard to kill this show. We haven’t said much about it in public. It seemed too self-referential. The point of this show has never been us. But now it’s obvious to everybody. There’s no pretending that it’s not happening. It is happening. And so going forward, we’ll be covering their efforts to make us be quiet,” Carlson said of his detractors Monday night. “Fox News is behind us, as they have been since the very first day,” he added, noting: “But we will never bow to the mob. Ever. No matter what.”
While Carlson was on the air, Media Matters released another trove of remarks he made in past years on the radio talk show, hosted by the “shock jock” known as “Bubba The Love Sponge.” Some of those conversations were discussed on “All In With Chris Hayes,” the MSNBC program that vies for ratings with Carlson’s show at 8 p.m.
Advertisers have boycotted “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in the recent past, and it’s not immediately clear whether the ad load featured on Monday’s broadcast was at the show’s current norm. But the program featured longer commercials from direct-response advertiser MyPillow, a regular Fox News client. Bayer AG, the pharmaceutical manufacturer, aired commercials for Clairtin-D and One-A-Day vitamins.
Fox News has grappled for several months with efforts by advocacy organizations to erode Madison Avenue’s ties to the network’s primetime schedule. Some sponsors have pulled their advertising from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” or Laura Ingraham’s “The Ingraham Angle” after remarks made by the hosts in 2018 and amid subsequent protests. Those commercials have been moved elsewhere on the Fox News schedule, and those two programs have in recent months sported a narrower roster of national advertisers.
Fox News has supported both hosts during the scrutiny and said it would not let them be “censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.” While some advertisers have asked to have their ads moved from the two primetime shows, they have kept their relationship with Fox News intact. Despite the recent controversies, 21st Century Fox said during its last call with investors that its advertising revenue rose 6% in its most recent fiscal quarter, largely due to better pricing at Fox News Channel.
Audiences continue to tune in. Fox News’ three primetime shows, hosted by Carlson, Sean Hannity and Ingraham, are among the most-watched programs in cable news. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has averaged 525,000 people in the demographic favored most by advertisers, people between 25 and 54 and nearly 2.94 million overall viewers year to date as of March 7, according to data from Nielsen. Those figures trump the same programs that air at 8 p.m. on CNN and MSNBC, according to Nielsen.
Media buyers say they recognize the value of Fox News’ primetime audience, but note some clients are wary of being called out on social media by various organizations. The network has planned this week to hold a showcase for advertisers meant to promote not only the breadth of its audience around the U.S, but also to highlight its news programming, where hosts like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum have notched exclusive interviews with prominent newsmakers.