Is a major primetime schedule shakeup imminent at FOX News?

See also: Fox News desperately needs new blood

Matt Drudge and his Drudge Report broke an unsourced story yesterday morning that pushed both the MSM and alternative media to immediately take notice. Based on one anonymous source, the Drudge Report’s top headline screamed (all in bold) “HANNITY FOXNEWS SHOWCASE; MOVES TO 8 PM.” Above that was a black and white photo of Hannity and at the top of the page were two lines of text:

FOXNEWS is preparing to announce an ambitious new schedule, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned, a schedule where ever hour of primetime will change!


And that was it. No further information or details were forthcoming.

Almost immediately, in a chain reaction (or a hall of mirrors), the MSM jumped on the story – even though at that moment there was no there there. And when the first stories about Drudge’s headline were posted, Drudge posted a new headline that linked to them.

The Drudge Report headline Wednesday morning May 17, 2023 that started the rumors

Mediaite, for example, headlined its story “Drudge Reports Hannity to Replace Tucker in Major Shake Up — Fox News Responds.”

The Drudge Report dropped a siren-blaring scoop on Wednesday announcing an imminent shake-up at Fox News, eventually reporting that Sean Hannity will take over at 8 p.m.

“WORLD EXCLUSIVE: FOXNEWS SETS NEW SCHEDULE” read the headline from Matt Drudge on the highly-trafficked website he founded. Drudge eventually updated that headline to note Hannity’s new gig as well as report both Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld would be heading to prime time.

Mediaite queried Fox News’s PR department, and this was their reply:

A Fox News spokesperson told Mediaite, “No decision has been made on a new primetime line-up and there are multiple scenarios under consideration.”

Three hours later, Deadline addressed – or attempted to – the question of what this alleged shakeup – with Hannity, Watters, and Gutfeld supposedly going to the prime time block of 8-11 PM ET – would mean for Laura Ingraham’s program, currently ensconced since 2017 at 10 PM ET.

Fox News issued another statement to address potential changes to its primetime schedule, this time on the status of Laura Ingraham.

A network spokesperson said, “Reports based on various tweets by left wing activists are wildly inaccurate — Laura Ingraham, the top-rated woman in cable news, is now and will continue to be a prominent host and integral part of the Fox News lineup.”

The latest Fox News statement does not address whether she will remain in her 10 p.m. ET time period, but the network statement is a pushback on social media rumors that she is exiting.

The speculation about Ingraham started after the Drudge Report, in its main headline, reported that Fox News was about to overhaul its primetime line up, with Hannity leading the 8 p.m. hour and shows hosted by Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld taking the later slots. That left the question of what would happen to Ingraham.

By day’s end, there was no further reporting on the topic, although Drudge kept the links to the stories at Mediaite, Deadline, and Variety at the top of his news aggregation site, later adding another one at the Daily Beast.

Variety’s article seemed to cast a bit of cold water on the rumors started by Drudge:

Such a [change in FOX News’s primetime schedule] would have significant ramifications that would not dovetail with recent Fox News strategy. Gutfeld’s 11 p.m. program has been a break-out success with the network’s viewers, and has extended the outlet’s opinion block from 7 p.m. to midnight. Watters’ show at 7 has also been considered successful. Watters is also more right-leaning than others on the roster and he got his start making appearances at 8 p.m. on Bill O’Reilly’s show, making him appear as a natural fit. But people familiar with Fox News say executives have suggested that Watters is doing well in the 7 p.m. hour he began anchoring in 2022 and that they could be loath to move him.

In my opinion, this appeared to be an example of Drudge dropping an unsourced info bomb and then reinforcing it with links to the coverage of it – none of which advanced the story except to cite the two statements by FOX News denying the rumors.

The last time a possible shakeup at FOX News – the country’s #1 cable news channel – headlined the news was on August 14, 2017. On that day, Drudge hinted a change was afoot by tweeting a congratulation to Laura Ingraham on her imminent move to FOX. No formal announcement of her joining the channel in a prominent primetime hosting role had yet been made.

As I reported at American Thinker on August 16, 2017:

On Monday, August 14, Matt Drudge let the cat out of the bag, as he occasionally does (remember the Lewinsky scandal?), with an enigmatic tweet that congratulated veteran radio and TV talk host Laura Ingraham on her move to FNC prime time this fall.  This tantalizing tweet was followed in short order by reports in other media advancing long simmering speculation that the FNC prime-time schedule will soon be changed – for the third time this year.  Many of these reports are suggesting that the change will entail moving The Five from 9 P.M. E.T. back to 5 P.M., with Laura Ingraham moving into the 9 P.M. hour.  Last month, two high-level sources informed me that major prime-time schedule changes at the news channel would indeed be in place by early fall.

However, in an exclusive being reported here, on Tuesday, August 15, one of my reliable sources said with "1,000% certainty" that Fox News management wants Sean Hannity for the all-important 9 P.M. hour.  "That's the most likely scenario" of the changes being discussed, the source added.

While no contracts have been signed and no final decisions have been made, it appears as of this writing that the fall 2017 FNC prime-time schedule will most likely be Tucker Carlson Tonight at 8, Hannity at 9, and (possibly if not probably) a new program hosted by Laura Ingraham at 10.  In any case, it looks as if The Five will be returning to its former 5 P.M. slot.  If this information holds true, the lead story today is that Sean Hannity will soon be going head to head against MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in a battle of the cable TV news titans.

I had been following developments at FOX News closely in 2017 including via a top inside source at the channel who confirmed to me, weeks before Drudge broke the story, what the new prime time schedule of FOX News in the fall of 2017 would soon be. But since I had only one source (who had to remain anonymous) and no confirmation beyond that, it was concluded that we could not run with the story.

Also on Wednesday, CNN announced its own primetime shakeup. Current morning host and former White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins has been chosen to host her own primetime program at 9 PM ET starting in June. Collins catapulted to public attention eight days ago when she hosted CNN's Town Hall with President Donald Trump. Her aggressive, confrontational style – constantly interrupting and challenging Trump as he spoke and answered audience questions – inspired Trump to say to her at one point “You're a nasty woman.”

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades.  His web page with links to his work is  Peter's extensive American Thinker archive:  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.


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