Fox News Ratings: Fanning The Flames Of Scandal Pays Off – Sort Of

If you’ve ever wondered what Fox News gets out of its frenzied pursuit of controversy, look no further than the Nielsen ratings for the month of May 2013.

For Fox News 2013 began by delivering the network its worst numbers in twelve years. They saw their top programs losing viewers with double digit percentages. Bill O’Reilly dropped 25%, and Sean Hannity declined 19%. This occurred while their competition, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow, increased their audiences by 23% and 32% respectively. It was dismal performance for Fox and omen of bad times to come.

A few months later, Fox has seen a noticeable bounce that will surely brighten their mood. The recovery can be entirely attributed to the bucket of scandals they have been serving up to their bloodthirsty, Obama-hating disciples. Nothing inspires wingnut viewer loyalty like the catastrophic misfortune of one’s enemies.

The numbers for May find Fox up 24% overall compared to the same period in 2012. While that may appear to be good news, there are hazards lurking in the ratings weeds. Take a look at this chart that contrasts Fox’s primetime total audience with their weak reach among the more highly valued 25-54 year old age group.

Fox News Ratings
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The month of May was heavily weighted down by melodramatic news events that would appeal to Fox’s native audience. There would not likely be any migration to or from other networks during this time. CNN also benefited from the hard news orientation that is their area of expertise. Not surprisingly, MSNBC, who has soared in recent months, slowed down during this period due to their narrow focus on politics at a time when viewers were seeking out hard news. Even HLN had a solid month due to the various courtroom dramas that were playing out (Arias, Gosnell, etc.).

What is particularly striking though, is that Fox would produce such large gains overall and still decline substantially in the younger demos that advertisers favor. This is further evidence that Fox’s audience is graying at a rapid rate. This means that they will earn far less for their ad time than their competitors who attract a larger share of the demo audience. It also means that they will suffer over time as audiences age.

However, it is inescapable that Fox’s obsession with hyperbolic attacks on President Obama and his administration is not resonating with younger viewers. Fox is repeating the mistakes they committed last year by harping on wild conspiracies, extreme rightist rhetoric, and fantastical allegations for which they have no support. That’s the sort of behavior that turned them into a laughing stock and produced an audience that was stunned when Republicans cratered at the ballot box. The same sort of shock is going to strike Fox viewers when these myriad scandals all peter out. Their gullible audience will once again wonder how Fox could have assured them that the Obama administration was near collapse, but nothing close to that takes place. If there is one constant that Fox is careful to maintain, it is their determination to mislead their flock by feeding them the fringe-flavored chum they crave.

The near future will likely be more of the same barring any unforeseen circumstances. There are no predictable events on the horizon (i.e. elections) that are likely to stir the pot. Although the currently simmering pseudo-scandals may still have a little heat in them, and the Supreme Court will be dropping some decisions this summer. Other than that, stay tuned to be underwhelmed, unless you’re Fox viewer. In which case — be afraid, be very afraid.


8 thoughts on “Fox News Ratings: Fanning The Flames Of Scandal Pays Off – Sort Of

  1. FOX isn’t serving up the scandals; the scandals have been served up by the government. There is one point you’re missing about the prized 25-54 demo is that many tend to become more conservative in their politics as the gray hairs start to appear and they become aware of the Left Wing Lie.

    It’s also nice to see you using the word ‘hyperbole’, but unfortunately not in the context of this article.

  2. John, another victim of Fox Lies. They didn’t tell him about Teapublicans altering emails and that the real scandal is the Tea Party filing as 501C’s when they are politically active. Keep clicking your heals John, no one’s buying the Reicht Wing Lies and folks are leaving the Teapublican party in droves. Alternate Universe John.

    • Cyndi,

      Just so you are aware, I get my news from many different sources, FOX News being a small percentage thereof. My sources of news include many “objective” as well as right and left wing outlets. I can assure you I am no victim, and I’m far from delusional.

      You, on the other hand, appear to be of the school that believes the scandals are a right wing conspiracy fabricated out of thin air by Sean Hannity and his evil friends to make this administration look bad. (By the way, I don’t like Sean Hannity.) It wasn’t the lack of transparency, misdirection, miscommunication, apparent disconnection from both activities and knowledge of their occurrence, or even his lack of a sense of urgency that has allowed some of these incidents to mushroom.

      I realize Pres. Obama isn’t personally responsible for ordering the IRS to target conservative groups, or ordering the DOJ to obtain AP phone records, or even ordering military help in Benghazi to stand down.

      I also realize that people like you blamed Pres. Bush for the BP oil spill even though he didn’t specifically direct the government bureaucrats’ actions or omissions that led to it, and he had been out of office for 1 1/4 years.

      You can’t have it both ways, Cyndi. Either the President is responsible for stuff that happens under his watch…or he’s not.

  3. Fax has been running 1/2 and Full page ads in the Wall Street Journal all month. They say that ‘you can handle the truth’.

    Which ‘truth’ though?

    • I’m beginning to think FOX’s large ratings numbers are due to all the Lefties obsessively tuning in so they can catch every misstep so they can either write about it on blogs like this, or chime in with comments to support the blogger they blindly follow.

      In the meantime, all hell could be breaking loose at MSNBC and they’d never know. They figure Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton will make sure they keep things together.

      Moreover, their obsession focuses on the minutiae of FOX’s lies, exaggerations and propaganda, but fail to recognize major issues that are far more significant. Alas, they believe that FOX is manipulating everything that happens as part of its plot to take over the world and impose Republicanism on it. It scares them to death.

  4. I have seen these ratings fights for years. There are far more moderate/liberal authentic news outlets than there are conservative ones. The ratings of Fox typically matches the combined ratings of CNN, PBS, MSNBC, ABC. So it is a wash. Add to this the likelyhood that liberals are using other technologies for their news at a higher rate than (grey) conservatives. The same thing can be said about the success of drudge’s site.

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