Predictions of FOX News's post-Tucker ratings demise may be premature
As might have been expected, the ratings for FOX News's 8 P.M. E.T. hour suffered after Tucker Carlson was unceremoniously dumped without warning on Monday, April 24. During that last week of April, Tucker Carlson Tonight was replaced by a generic news and talking head show titled Fox News Tonight. The first week of Tucker-free hosting at 8 P.M. went to veteran channel host and Fox & Friends morning show co-host Brian Kilmeade.
Unsurprisingly, FOX News's ratings for that week at 8 P.M. tanked. Meanwhile, also-ran competitor Newsmax saw its ratings in the 8 P.M. hour increase approximately 300 percent.
While many Carlson fans and conservative bloggers were expecting, if not hoping, that FOX News's ratings would continue to crater, the opposite appears to be happening.
Week #2 without Tucker saw a gradual rise in the channel's 8 P.M. viewers. Last Wednesday and Thursday, the most recent ratings available today, FOX News actually won the 8 P.M. time slot, over CNN and MSNBC, both in the total number of viewers and the "demo" (the coveted advertising-preferred demographic of viewers aged 25 to 54).
And this victory came in spite of the fact that FOX has not yet settled on a permanent replacement for Carlson in that first hour of prime-time broadcasting. This week, for example, starting tonight, Kayleigh McEnany, a co-host of Fox News's Outnumbered, will guest host the 8 P.M. hour of Fox News Tonight.
Week #2 (May 1–5) of the 8 P.M. hour was hosted by Lawrence Jones, one of the channel's weaker hosts in this writer's opinion. Yet Jones pulled out a victory over his major competitors on Wednesday and Thursday night at 8 P.M. E.T. last week.
TV Newser/Adweek, which publishes the Nielsen cable news ratings (free registration required), headlined its Thursday May 4 ratings article: "Thursday, May 4 Scoreboard: Fox News Wins 8 and 9 PM to Remain No. 1 in Primetime."
Last Thursday, in the 8 P.M. E.T. hour, Fox New Tonight hosted by Lawrence Jones had 181,000 viewers in the demo (viewers 25–54), while Anderson Cooper at CNN had 146,000 and Chris Hayes at MSNBC 153,000. In total number of viewers, FOX News Tonight had 1.550 million viewers vs. CNN (571,000) and MSNBC (1.442 million).
Ratings are fluid, of course, and anything can happen from here on out. But these numbers are a good start for FOX, which is counting on the ship righting, so to speak, in the wake of its #1 primetime show (Tucker Carlson Tonight) going bye-bye.
Independent media observers, including this author, have opined in the past that FOX News — which launched in 1996 and has been #1 in the ratings since 2001 — is bigger than any of its hosts. This was proven in 2017, when its then top-rated prime time show, the Factor with Bill O'Reilly, was removed from the schedule in April of that year. After a summer of discontent, the ratings rebounded in the fall of 2017.
Similarly, after the election results of 2020 declared Joe Biden the winner, Fox News lost its leadership in primetime for several weeks, only to recover in early 2021. FOX News has remained the #1 cable news channel — and frequently the #1 basic cable channel — ever since.
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 http://peter.media. Peter's extensive American Thinker archive: http://tinyurl.com/pcathinker. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.