One could safely say that by the end of 2020, fans of Fox News had had enough of the network that famously calls itself “fair and balanced.” That’s putting it nicely. It was more like they were spitting nickels, as the old saying goes, and tuning out in droves. As we head into the third quarter of 2021, it is legitimate to ask how Fox responded to such animus. Is the network working to rehabilitate itself?
It must be stipulated upfront that all news ratings have taken a dive since Donald Trump left the White House. This is across the board politically and in terms of platforms. From digital news outlets to the big-box boys, everyone is experiencing a severe drop in viewer/readership.
To see where Fox is going, take a brief look from whence it came. In television parlance, Fox News was sucking swamp water as the calendar turned to 2021. Ratings revealed the network was doing the TV version of the limbo as in “how low can you go.” This was a direct result of how Fox handled its election coverage, which fractured its relationship with loyal viewers who believed the network Rupert Murdoch built had sold its soul to the Devil.
As one Fox viewer told Liberty Nation, “I would like to say that Fox is a huge disappointment as the only media source that I trusted. There’s plenty of media for the Democrats, but there was only one for Republicans, and now there’s none.” Without hesitation, these die-hard conservatives went surfing and found a few friendly environments – places such as Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN). Would this be the start of lengthy love affairs?
It appears not.
Recent data reveal from where Fox might be picking up its viewership these days. In January, Newsmax was running hot and heavy with almost 291,000 people tuning in. However, it has not retained that audience. Recent ratings show the TV outlet with just over 100,000 viewers as of May 23, 2021. Still, it does have one popular program: Greg Kelly Reports tops its list of most watched with a respectable 369,000 viewers.
Ratings for One America News are a bit harder to come by. One report had OANN with “9% of daily viewers” among GOP voters in March. That compares to 13% for Newsmax and 27% for Fox.
As of May 26, Fox News still tops the cable news rankings with more than 1.1 million viewers. MSNBC comes the closest to Fox but posts only 842,000 viewers. For perspective, it is worth noting that CNN comes in fifth place with an average of 569,000 viewers. Digging deeper, it is easy to see that the most conservative programs on Fox are where the ratings blossom.
Viewers have crowned Tucker Carlson the king of conservative viewership with an audience of more than 3 million. The Five comes in second place among all cable TV news programs and Hannity third. This trend has not gone over the heads of Fox executives.
It’s Getting Mighty Old in TV Land
Without splitting hairs and depending on which source you consult, the average cable TV news consumer is in his or her 60s. Both Fox News and CNN viewers range somewhere between the ages of 60 and 65. This is not a profitable statistic for either channel. But CNN has been hammered the hardest. According to Nielsen Media Research, “CNN lost around 65% of its total [primetime] viewers since January. In the critical 25-54 age demographic, the network lost 71% of its viewers for both the day and primetime.”
TV advertisers will tell you that older adults do not buy as much stuff as younger folks. The answer to this conundrum may be in developing new platforms that draw in a more youthful audience. Hence, streaming services appear to be the wave of the future. Fox is using its digital platform Fox Nation to draw in the hard-right with personalities such as Tomi Lahren, Brian Kilmeade, and yet another Tucker Carlson show. As well, Fox recently added the combative and contentious Dan Bongino to its live-streaming platform. Bongino is not for the faint of heart, and folks on the right would not have it any other way. This is a nod to the America First crowd that tuned out Fox News last year.
Thus, it remains to be seen if Fox News has learned its lesson and understands better where its bread is buttered. Conservatives may be giving it another chance, and the network of the late Roger Ailes would be wise not to blow this opportunity. Such as it is, Fox viewers may still be wary and ready to jump ship at the slightest provocation.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.