In May of 2007 I did an analysis of the ratings of the GOP 2008 presidential primaries broadcast on cable news. The conclusion showed that Fox News viewers remained glued to Fox regardless of what else on the air. I wrote at the time that…
“Fox viewers are married to the channel and couldn’t care less what’s playing down the dial. Their hypnotic attachment filters out all other sensory stimulation, even if it’s something that would ordinarily excite them. [...] Fox viewers appear to be more loyal to Fox than to Republicans or conservatism. This misdirected allegiance bestows a far more influential authority onto a media entity than ought ever to be considered. It suggests that the bombastic demagogues that Fox has shaped into celebrity anchors truly do weigh down their transfixed disciples.”
The Cult of Foxonality™ was affirmed when Fox acquired Glenn Beck and saw his ratings (temporarily) skyrocket. Fox viewers were wholly uninterested in the conservative schlock-jock when he was on CNN. Switching channels, even to see someone they would later slobber over, was too much trouble. But when he moved to Fox their slobbering could begin in earnest.
Now the Republican primary debates for 2012 demonstrate that little has changed in four years. Fox viewers are simply not inclined to stray from their electronic hearth no matter the attraction. The GOP debate on MSNBC was watched by more than 5.4 million viewers. CNN’s Gop/Tea Party debate drew 3.6 million [Note: It was competing against Monday Night Football and the U.S. Tennis Open Finals]. However, the ratings for Fox News hardly budged. The primetime average for Fox News in the second quarter of 2011 was 2.184 million viewers. On September 7, during MSNBC’s debate coverage, Fox’s primetime average was actually a little higher at 2.253 million. On September 12, during CNN’s debate coverage, Fox’s primetime average dipped to 1.791 million.
Clearly Fox News viewers can’t be bothered to dig the remote out from under the cushions in order to see what the next Republican nominee for president might say if it’s on another channel. That’s too bad because they missed Rick Perry complaining that Michele Bachmann underestimated the price for which he could be bought.
Perry: “I raise about thirty million dollars, and if you’re saying I can be bought for five thousand, I’m offended.”
That’s telling her. Perry knows how important it is to defend your brand, or else cronies and lobbyists will start to lowball you. And that can really cut into your profit margin. So the question is – How much can he be bought for?
Fox viewers also missed the Tea Party audience at the debate express their compassion for their fellow Americans. In a discussion about access to health care, moderator Wolf Blitzer presented Ron Paul with a hypothetical patient who required intensive care but had no insurance. “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” Blitzer asked. Paul’s answer in the negative was nearly drowned out by numerous audience members shouting “Yeah!” It looks like Republicans owe former (and perhaps future) Florida representative Alan Grayson an apology for vilifying him when he said that the GOP health care plan was “Don’t get sick! And if you do get sick, die quickly!”
The next GOP debate will be carried by Fox News so the FoxPods won’t have to worry about what’s on opposite O’Reilly. They can lean back and scarf down their Happy Meal without missing anything important. Or, at least, anything that Fox thinks is important.