×

Fox News Surprise: ‘The Five’ Usurps Tucker Carlson as Most-Watched Show

The-Five-Fox_-News
Courtesy of Fox News

The round-table show “The Five” has proven to be one of Fox News Channel’s most durable properties. And yet, after a decade on air, the late-afternoon program can still surprise even the most veteran executive at the Fox Corp. cable-news outlet.

“The Five,” which these days relies largely on a trio of regulars and two rotating guests, outmaneuvered primetime colleagues like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity to become the most-watched show on the network  — and cable news — in October, according to data from Nielsen. “The Five,” led by Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino and Jesse Watters, captured an average of nearly 3.11 million viewers during the month, compared to around 3.08 million for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” at 8 p.m. and nearly 2.74 million for “Hannity” at 9 p.m.

Carlson’s program continues to lead the network and the overall cable-news sector among viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming.

The boost for “The Five” takes place while the program has been in a period of flux. Fox News has largely been relying on an array of guests to fill in a slot once held by Juan Williams, who in late May announced he would leave the show and stay in Washington, D.C., rather than return to the program’s New York production studio after the pandemic. Geraldo Rivera, Harold Ford Jr., Jessica Tarlov, Katie Pavlich and Dagen McDowell have been among the Fox News personalities who have helped to fill chairs.

Executives have long said they intend to replace Williams, who has served as a left-leaning foil to some of the show’s more conservative panelists. “It’s really important for our viewers and for the conservatives in America that we always have different opinions and that includes someone from the left,” Megan Albano, the Fox News executive who oversees “The Five,” told Variety in July. The show’s fifth seat has largely remained stocked by guests since Kimberly Guilfoyle left in 2018.

One “Five” stalwart, Gutfeld, has enjoyed new attention after launching a late-night panel show at 11 p.m. on Fox News that has attracted sizable crowds. Could that program be pushing new viewers to early afternoon?

While “The Five” has long been a favorite of Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who helped create it and was instrumental in paring panelist Gutfeld with colleague Perino on air, no one has counted on it to capture the network’s biggest slice of viewership. After all, the program runs at 5 p.m., when the biggest crowds have yet to sit down for the evening.

At the same time, one can argue that Fox News is increasingly built on a “Five” template. Many of its newest programs rely on a similar format. Gutfeld’s show and the midday program “Outnumbered” both utilize a broader panel of hosts, as do two relatively new weekend programs, “The Big Saturday Show” and “The Big Sunday Show.”

Originally conceived in 2011 as a program that would give more air time to a bevy of Fox News contributors who did not have their own roost on the schedule, “The Five” has delivered for Fox News in times both easy and difficult. It usually airs each afternoon, but for a period of a few months in 2017, it moved to primetime as Fox News dealt with the one-two punch of losing both Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Fox News originally launched it to fill in for the departure of the controversial Glenn Beck, whose program had come to an end.

Executives at the network will no doubt be scrutinizing the show’s performance in November to see if the viewer levels are sustainable or merely a fluke.