Last night Fox News debuted a new primetime lineup. It was the first time they had altered their schedule in more than a decade. They heavily promoted the changes and the new hosts for weeks. And on the the big night, when most new programs enjoy a ratings bump due to viewers sampling the new fare, Fox News did not get what they must have been expecting.
The top billing for the night went to Megyn Kelly, whose “Kelly File” has been eagerly anticipated by Foxophiles and received massive PR in advance of the debut. Unfortunately for her, she came in second to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in the key 25-54 year old demographic.
Be Sure To “LIKE” News Corpse On Facebook
It would be bad enough for a Fox host to lose to an MSNBC show under ordinary circumstances, but to trail on the one night that ought to have been a runaway victory is a major embarrassment for Kelly and Fox. There were no extenuating circumstances that might have contributed to an unexpected win for Maddow. For instance, she did not have an exclusive interview with President Obama wherein he announced that he really was born in Kenya after all. And Kelly’s show had booked the GOP flavor of the week, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-Tea Party), as her first guest, so she ought to have been well positioned to draw in the Fox fanatics in bulk. But it was not to be.
What’s more, Greta Van Susteren, who had moved from 10:00pm to 7:00pm, lost to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. And Sean Hannity, who lost his 9:00pm slot to Kelly and took over the 10:00pm time that Van Susteren vacated, could only manage a tie with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. The only win for Fox the whole night was by their perennial top dog, Bill O’Reilly, who bested Chris Hayes, the newest MSNBC host who has yet to find an audience.
These dismal performances by Fox programs are all the worse because the network had poured so much money and promotional muscle into the evening. It was their intent to inject new blood into the schedule in order to attract the younger, advertiser-favored demos that have avoided Fox like the plague. That goal was clearly not met – at least on the debut. And just to rub it in, MSNBC achieved their ratings victories with the same old shows they’ve had on for years and no extra promotion.
Rest assured that Fox programming executives are already huddling to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it. Kelly and the others may yet return to their perches atop the ratings tree. But they will still have little influence over the broader television audience who recognize Fox for what it is: the PR division of the Republican Party and the Tea Party cheerleading squad. Remember, Fox’s top rated programs only reach 1% of the American people, and the garbage that they ingest (see Fox Nation vs. Reality) just makes them ignorant, ineffectual, and filled with ghastly surprise when they lose elections.
[Follow Up: 10/27/2013] It is now three weeks since this article was published and I still get commenters giddily noting that Kelly’s ratings improved on subsequent nights. SO F**KING WHAT? This article is about the premiere episode and it even notes that her ratings may improve later. These FoxPods just can’t seem to focus on single topic.