Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
We now have further confirmation that Fox News’ role as a mouthpiece for Donald Trump is affecting the network’s bottom line.
According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, the network is struggling to sell ad space on their 9 and 10 PM respective programs.
While Fox News dominated the ratings in May—a fact Trump bragged about on Saturday—the network is having new difficulties monetizing its most pro-Trump programming. According to three sources briefed on the numbers, advertising revenues for Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are down in recent months. “The pro-Trump thing isn’t working. We can’t monetize DACA and the wall and that right-wing shit,” one staffer said. “Despite all the hype on Hannity, they can’t sell it,” another insider told me. (Tucker Carlson’s show is faring better, sources said).
This follows an October 2017 report that Fox News’ ad revenue had dropped 17% year over year, at the same time that ad revenue at other cable news networks was relatively stable.
Advertisers have fled Sean Hannity’s toxic program because of his promotion of conspiracy theories, pro-Trump propaganda and willingness to take extreme measure to deflect and defend anything that comes out of the White House. Media Matters launched a campaign to focus on advertiser education when it became clear that there were no rules for Sean Hannity at Fox News. Recent events have only vindicated that. There is no pretense that Hannity abides by any standards, as Hannity has built an entire universe separate from the rest of Fox News based solely on absolute and undying loyalty to Donald Trump. Reports indicate that Hannity advises the president on a consistent basis, who in turn promotes Hannity’s show on his Twitter account. Many advertisers have left the show. At this point, the sole purpose of Hannity’s show is not profit, or education, or even entertainment: It is to lay the groundwork for an authoritarian response to the Russia probe led by Robert Mueller.
Meanwhile, Laura Ingraham has built her show around racism, sexism and fear mongering about immigrants. She has attacked asylum seekers and refugees, told athletes to “shut up and dribble” after Lebron James criticized President Trump, and said that transgender people don’t belong in the military. Ingraham received massive blowback for these remarks.
Meanwhile, This backlash spilled over to financial consequences following Ingraham’s attacks on Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg and his sister Lauren. The duo led an advertiser boycott against Ingraham, forcing her to apologize and take a “vacation.” On her radio show, Ingraham doubled down, attacking companies that left her show as having “gave into the mob.”
But until some management imposes real standards and consequences at Fox News, it’s up to activists and advertisers to shoulder the burden. As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone wrote in October:
Mostly driven by concerns around digital advertising, companies are becoming increasingly mindful about brand safety and intentionality in that advertising. And that mindfulness is starting to influence other advertising decisions as well, like television sponsorships.
Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business. But Fox News continues to offer all three in spades, and as a result, I suspect it is beginning to have a downward effect on the network’s commercial viability as a whole.
Bottom line is this: Fox News’ ad revenue plummeted. It’s likely largely attributable to Hannity’s growing advertiser losses. And it also appears to reflect a deeper vulnerability in Fox News’ business model of bigotry, deceit, and partisanship.