Commentary

O'Reilly's Fox Departure May Not Impact Financial Bottom Line

Calculate what Bill O’Reilly meant to Fox News Channel -- in a pure dollars and cents. The result: Perhaps it's not that much.

O’Reilly, the sometimes controversial host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” had long been the face of the network for 20 years, starting in 1996, when the cabler first aired.

Most recent estimates are the show pulled in more than $140 million in national advertising revenues. This comes from a number of sources, including Kantar Media and iSpot.tv. Anthony DiClemente, media analyst at Nomura Securities, believes it actually comes to less than $100 million.

How does this compare to overall network revenue? Just a drop in the bucket.

Overall, annual Fox News Channel national advertising revenue comes to $1.2 billion in 2016. Add in network affiliate fees Fox News gets from cable, satellite and telco providers? DiClemente says that’s a whopping $9 billion a year.

But others might say O’Reilly brought intangibles to the networks -- like big-network marketing spin, as well as being a lure to attract other talent to the network. And, of course, there was high cable network viewership, a strong lead-in to other programming

So what is the downside for the network long term? Probably not that much.

Loyal Fox News Channel viewers aren’t going away. Even with O’Reilly on current vacation, “The O’Reilly Factor” still performs at a high viewing level, north of 3 million Nielsen-measured viewers a night.

Fox News Channel itself has been the No. 1 cable prime-time network for 15 weeks in a row -- in the midst of disruption. The departure of Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes, also surrounding sexual harassment issues last year, as well as high profile on-air departures -- Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren -- didn't shake the base.

When The New York Times story broke about O'Reilly and Fox paying $13 million to silence sexual harassment complaints, it sealed O'Reilly's fate, say analysts. The Murdochs -- especially Rupert Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, who jointly run 21st Century Fox -- wanted to put all the distraction of sexual harassment in the past, according to reports.

Through all of this, Fox News has seen soaring news viewership -- before and since the presidential election. (There has been big gains for MSNBC and CNN, too.) Many believe this is the perfect time to make a major change. 

Look at one recent example, when Tucker Carlson replaced Megyn Kelly in another key time period -- 9 p.m. -- in January. The time period viewership didn’t decline, as many were expecting. Instead, it went higher.

As a result, many media analysts don’t see any material affects to the Fox News Channel or 21st Century Fox. On Wednesday, Fox’s stock price was down just under 1% to close at $30.39.

3 comments about "O'Reilly's Fox Departure May Not Impact Financial Bottom Line ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 20, 2017 at 9:20 a.m.

    Wayne, I find DiClemente's estimate that Fox News receives $7.8 billion yearly from cable systems, satellite distribs and Telcos very difficult to believe. About a quarter of that amount may be more like it. Can you verify?

  2. Jon Swallen from Kantar Media, April 20, 2017 at 12:18 p.m.

    $7.8 billion/yr works out to a monthly subscriber fee of about $7.00 vs. the $1.00-$1.25 fee that Kagan estimates the network is recieving. Even bundling all the Fox-owned cable networks together, it's hard to substantiate a $7.00 per month valuation.

  3. Wayne Friedman from MediaPost Communications, April 20, 2017 at 2:55 p.m.

    A SNL Kagan study released in December 2016 projected affiliate revenues for just the Fox News Channel to total $1,546.3 billion — an average of $1.41 per subscriber per month.

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