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Fox News shakes up schedule, moves Hannity to Tucker Carlson spot

By Sarah May
|
May 18, 2023

Reports emerged this week that in the wake of its abrupt decision to part ways with longtime host Tucker Carlson, Fox News is on the cusp of a massive shakeup, potentially shifting Sean Hannity into the 8:00 p.m. time slot and catapulting network personalities Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld into primetime, as Mediaite explains.

The blockbuster programming shuffle was teased on popular news aggregation site, The Drudge Report, which cited a supposedly well-placed inside source, though no confirmation of any such changes has yet been announced by the network.

Drudge Report Touts Fox Shakeup

Famous for its history of newsworthy scoops, the Drudge Report on Wednesday blasted a headline that read, “WORLD EXCLUSIVE: FOX NEWS SETS NEW SCHEDULE.”

That announcement was followed by another, which stated, “FOX NEWS is preparing to announce an ambitious new schedule, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned, a schedule where every hour of primetime will change!”

Adding to the drama factor, the site also added – in all caps for emphasis – “TOP SOURCE TELLS DRUDGE: 'IT'S OUR BOLDEST AND MOST FEARLESS LINE-UP EVER'...”

Despite Drudge's apparent confidence in the news the site was breaking, a Fox News representative seemed to throw at least some cold water on the claim, telling Mediaite, “No decision has been made on a new primetime line-up, and there are multiple scenarios under consideration.”

Not a Denial

Even though Fox News declined to confirm the truth of the Drudge Report's apparent exclusive, the Daily Beast reports that Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch has not exactly denied the possibility of such sweeping changes to the network's lineup.

During an earnings call held last week, Murdoch began, “There's no change to our programming strategy at Fox News.

“It's obviously a successful strategy, and as always, we are adjusting our programming and our lineup, and that's what we continued to do,” Murdoch added.

As the Daily Beast further notes, a major reshuffling of the network's primetime offerings would not be dissimilar to prior overhauls that occurred in the wake of other high-profile host departures, including those of Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly.

Undeniable Ratings Concerns

There can be little doubt that Fox News' decision to oust Carlson has produced substantial fallout in terms of declining ratings, as evidenced by the fact that on Monday, MSNBC beat its conservative counterpart in terms of total viewers as well as in the coveted 25-54 demographic during the primetime hours, as Mediaite notes.

Whereas Carlson customarily brought in 3.25 million viewers on a nightly basis, the spate of rotating hosts the network has put in his place has managed little more than 1.6 viewers per night.

At the same time, right-leaning outlet Newsmax has experienced a massive ratings boon, due largely to defections from former Fox News viewers outraged by the network's treatment of Carlson, according to the Daily Beast.

Hannity, for his part, had recently fallen into fourth place at Fox News, behind Carlson, Watters, and popular panel program The Five, and though he was still the most-watched cable news offering in the 9:00 p.m. slot, whether he would be able to reverse the network's 8:00 p.m. ratings collapse under the rumored plan of adjustment remains an open question.

Advertising Rebound Claimed

A report from Variety this week suggests that in the wake of Carlson's departure, a host of advertisers who had traditionally steered clear of the host's arguably controversial topics have returned to Fox News in droves, eager to place spots in the 8:00 p.m. time slot once more.

Citing the reemergence of companies such as Procter & Gamble on the network's evening airwaves, particularly during the Fox News Tonight show that replaced Carlson's program, ad sales executives at the network appear to have high hopes that a trend is now afoot.

“We have had over 40 new advertisers come into the hour since we launched the new program, including some of the largest in the country, and really, across all major categories,” declared Jeff Collins of Fox News Media. “We have seen new advertisers come in, and new demand.”

Time will tell whether Hannity will be able to sustain that purported advertising resurgence, or even if the Fox News schedule changes reported by Drudge will take shape in the manner claimed. One thing is clear, however, and that is that Carlson, for his part, plans to take his conversation with the American people to Twitter, something which may further erode his fans' willingness to engage at all with his former network home.