For the right-wing media, Trump is proving to be bad for business. Traffic is down and advertisers are staying away.
While the Trump-cheering Fox News continues to be stained by sexual harassment scandals that have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts, advertisers are having second thoughts about being associated with the far-right outlet.
Fox saw its advertising revenue plummet 17 percent last month, compared to September 2016. The steep decline at Fox came as MSNBC saw its September advertising revenue climb two percent, while CNN’s dipped by just one percent.
Just last week, disgraced Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly returned to make headlines when The New York Times reported that the cable network had renewed his multi-million dollar contract even after he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $32 million. This came out one year after founder Roger Ailes was forced out of the company after being accused of chronic sexual predatory behavior with his employees.
Has Madison Avenue finally had enough of the toxic Fox News brand?
News that a Thursday night guest on Fox, who worked in Donald Trump's White House until recently, called for the execution of Hillary Clinton might scare off more skittish advertisers about being associated with the network's dangerous and unseemly programming.
Trump's constant efforts to prop up the network by praising it on Twitter and in interviews and insisting that Fox is the only media outlet that is not "fake news" does not seem to be helping either.
The fact that the bottom is falling out at Fox News unfolds against a larger backdrop of other conservative media outlets also watching their business tank this year.
Industry traffic estimates suggest sites such as Drudge, Breitbart, IJR, and The Daily Caller are way down compared to last year, Axios recently reported. This, while traffic at several mainstream news and left-leaning sites has surged in 2017.
Suddenly the audience for race-baiting, white nationalist content is shrinking?
The huge decline in ad revenues at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is rather stunning since the company has been known for its ability to print money in recent years. But the current decline might not be easy to shake.
“The single biggest factor likely driving this decline is the fallout from advertisers leaving Sean Hannity’s program,” writes Media Matters for America president, Angelo Carusone. “Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business.”
The other big revenue problem for Fox is that it hasn't been able to fill the programming shoes of O’Reilly, who served as the channel’s rating’s anchor for nearly two decades.
In April, a New York Times investigation revealed that Fox and O’Reilly had spent approximately $13 million to pay off female colleagues who had reported harassment by O’Reilly. After an boycott campaign targeted O’Reilly’s show and advertisers fled, the host was dismissed and reportedly given a $25 million payout.
His forced exit was just one piece of the larger primetime shakeup. Twelve months ago, O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and Greta Van Sustern were part of Fox News’ longtime primetime lineup. Today, none of them are still employed by Fox.
Last year during the campaign season, O’Reilly and Kelly posted some blockbuster numbers. Even during the first quarter of this year, “O’Reilly averaged nearly 4 million viewers a night for the first three months of 2017, his best performance ever,” the Associated Press reported. O’Reilly’s replacement, Tucker Carlson, routinely draws 30-40% fewer viewers than that today.
And that means a hit on the bottom line. During September 2016, advertisers were paying $31,000 to run a single commercial on O’Reilly’s program. During September 2017, advertisers paid $12,000 per-ad on Carlson’s program.
If conservative media outlets thought a Trump victory would translate into good business in 2017, that's yet another constituency he's disappointed.