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Fox CEO: Fox News can survive without Tucker Carlson

The cable news channel continues to see strong viewership among the core demographic attractive to advertisers, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said.

The cable news channel continues to see strong viewership among the core demographic attractive to advertisers, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said.

The newsroom of the Fox News Channel appears in an undated photograph. (Image courtesy Fox Corporation)

The top executive at Fox Corporation says its cable news channel has built a resilient business that can withstand the departure of its top-rated prime-time commentator for the long term.

Speaking at the inaugural MoffettNathanson Technology, Media and Telecom conference on Wednesday, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Nielsen ratings for the Fox News Channel show the network still dominates across cable news in the key demographic that matters, with Fox News pulling in more number one shows than its closest competitors, CNN and MSNBC.

That key demographic is individuals between the ages of 25 and 54 years old, and while Fox News might trade with other networks for overall household ratings (on most days, it earns the top spot in that regard, too), the A25-54 demographic is the one that matters most to advertisers willing to buy against cable news programming.

Murdoch affirmed the following Fox News Channel networks were currently number one in the key A25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen ratings he reviewed Wednesday morning:

  • Fox & Friends First
  • Fox & Friends
  • America’s Newsroom
  • Faulkner Focus
  • Outnumbered
  • The Story with Martha McCallum
  • The Five
  • Special Report with Bret Baier
  • Jesse Watters Primetime
  • Fox News Tonight (8 p.m.)
  • Hannity
  • The Ingraham Angle
  • Gutfeld!
  • Fox News at Night

Those shows comprise nearly all of Fox News Channel’s daily schedule. The only show not specifically mentioned by Murdoch, “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” competes with “The Lead” on CNN and “Deadline: White House” on MSNBC. “The Lead,” anchored by Jake Tapper, occasionally has more viewers in the 4 p.m. Eastern Time slot among the key advertiser demographic, according to Nielsen ratings.

Murdoch said the strength in Fox News Channel’s ratings have helped the company extract more value from its retransmission consent agreements with cable and satellite providers, some of which are coming up for renewal this year. Like other media companies, Fox Corporation charges cable and satellite companies for the rights to redistribute their channels; those fees are then passed on to subscribers in the form of higher fees.

Murdoch didn’t hide the fact that Fox Corporation has asked cable and satellite companies to fork over more money for its channels, but said the high value of its cable network programming meant the demand was more than reasonable.

“We’re very confident with the strength that we have in these numbers, that we’re going to continue to drive premium pricing with our distributors,” Murdoch said.

Related: Fox to keep news, sports on cable for now, CEO says

The affirmation comes after Fox News Media found itself in the middle of two turbulent events over the last several weeks. In mid-April, Fox agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems more than $787 million to resolve a defamation case brought over some election-related conspiracy theories involving Dominion that were discussed on some Fox News programs. (Fox has long denied it was guilty of defamation, and executives claim they would have likely prevailed on First Amendment grounds if the case had gone to trial.)

Shortly after the settlement, Fox shocked the media world when it fired commentator Tucker Carlson, whose 8 p.m. show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” pulled in the highest overall and key demographic ratings across cable news in prime-time. Carlson has since decided to distribute a version of his old show on the social media platform Twitter.

Carlson’s dismissal led many to speculate that Fox News’ core conservative audience would flee the channel for competitors. And, to some degree, that has rung true: Fox News Channel has logged less than 2 million overall viewers in the 8 p.m. time slot, which currently airs temporary programming hosted by a revolving door of talent.

But Fox News continues to dominate among the core advertiser demographic, and executives say brands have shown more interest in buying ad inventory on the network since Carlson’s departure.

“The business is incredibly strong,” Murdoch said on Wednesday. “We’re seeing advertising, if anything, strengthen at Fox News, rather than weaken.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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