Fox News Channel may be of two minds, at least according to Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who just signed a new contract with the network.
There is the daytime/early evening regular straight news reporting that TV networks do. Smith is part of that. And then we have prime time, which is loaded opinion — and maybe not much else.
"Some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining," Smith told Time recently.
Smith said of opinion programs at Fox News Channel: “We serve different masters." Those prime-time opinion programming shows include “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Sean Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle.”
Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham posted rebuttal tweets about Smith’s comments.
Should Fox News just own the differences? Marketing lines at cable news networks can be a tricky thing. Think about Fox News' former longtime tag line: “We report. You decide.” Now the channel reads: “Real News. Real Honest Opinion.”
If some "news programming" is purely “opinion entertainment,” it would be good to have clarity. Many might point to other news networks offering different kinds of news content. Though in fairness, CNN and MSNBC rarely indulge in or sustain debunked conspiracy theories.
Many TV media-buying executives can figure this out, without overt marketing, and do what works for them. In that regard, the results are apparent. Looking at advertising/viewership metrics, Fox News Channel has been doing just fine.
Month after month, it registers top status among all cable TV networks in terms of overall prime-time viewership. Advertising revenues? That looks good as well, as the network pulled in $1.14 billion in national advertising sales from March 2017 to March 2018, according to iSpot.tv.
The two different sides at Fox have been existing for decades.
In 2002, while working for Ad Age, I interviewed now ex-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who offered some observation. Asked whether a more accurate marketing line for Fox should be -- “We report. We decide” -- he noted: "The prime-time shows are opinionated. But in the daytime, we do regular news and that still makes sense."
Real content for the senses. Honestly.