By Jackson Richman
Two days after his ouster from Fox News, Tucker Carlson broke his silence with a video that had at least 22.1 million views, more than the number of viewers in the 8 p.m. ET hour combined that day, let alone in that time slot on the network.
Fox News’ ratings have been down since the network parted ways on April 24 with Carlson, who anchored the most-watched show not just on that channel but on cable news as well.
The future of the coveted 8 p.m. slot is uncertain, as is whether the network can replicate the millions who tuned in to Carlson.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” averaged 3.25 million viewers in the first few months of 2023. In 2022, the show averaged 3.3 million viewers.
“Tucker Carlson had a unique appeal, due in large part to his unique perspective—or unique, at least, to mainstream/mainstream-adjacent media,” Josh Hammer, Newsweek opinion editor and podcaster, told The Epoch Times.
“How long that trend lasts is anyone’s guess, and many—perhaps most—viewers will come back to Fox. But for now, at least, it helps confirm what many already knew: Tucker’s audience is deeply loyal to him and his brand.”
The 8 p.m. slot on Fox News is now occupied by “Fox News Tonight,” where there will be a rotation of Fox News personalities until a permanent show and host are named. Brian Kilmeade has been hosting this week. Meanwhile, former Fox News host Eric Bolling, who now hosts an 8 p.m. show at Newsmax, saw his ratings nearly triple this week.
On April 24, when Fox News announced Carlson’s departure, 2.597 million viewers tuned in to “Fox News Tonight,” a 577,000 decrease from the 3.174 million viewers who tuned in to Carlson’s show the previous week. Meanwhile, rivals MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” and CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” garnered 1.387 million and 635,000 viewers, respectively, in the same 8 p.m. hour. Newsmax had an average of 531,000 total viewers, an increase of 385,000 viewers on average from April 17, for its 8 p.m. show, “Eric Bolling The Balance.” NewsNation’s “Cuomo” got just 128,000 viewers.
While Fox News’ primetime shows outperformed those of their competitors, averaging 2.351 million viewers, it was nonetheless a drastic drop with Carlson not being on air.
On April 25, 1.704 million viewers tuned in to “Fox News Tonight,” winning the 8 p.m. hour but with a decrease of 893,000 from the previous night and a decrease of 1.519 million from the 3.223 million the previous week. “Eric Bolling The Balance” got 562,000 viewers, an increase of 31,000 from the previous night and 440,000 from the previous week. “All in with Chris Hayes” got 1.449 million viewers, “Anderson Cooper 360” got 678,000, and “Cuomo” got 156,000.
“Many of Tucker’s fans are probably also big fans of Laura Ingraham,” said Hammer. “Some will go to Newsmax during the 8 p.m. hour, as Eric Bolling’s ratings bump indicates. Some others will probably go to non-cable/internet TV shows for news consumption during that time slot.”
Indeed, it “appears to be the case” that the bump in Bolling’s show can be attributed to Carlson being taken off the air, Bryan Leib, a Newsmax contributor, told The Epoch Times.
“I think Fox viewers have seen Dan Bongino [not have his contract renewed] and now Tucker Carlson be fired and it has been an eye-opener for them,” said Leib. “Fox has always been seeking to censor [Donald] Trump in many ways and a large percentage of the Fox base is very supportive of Trump. Meanwhile, Newsmax does not censor Trump and in fact, they carry all of Trump’s rallies and live events. This is the type of programming Fox News viewers seek, and that is why they are coming over in droves to Newsmax.”
Carlson’s next stop is anyone’s guess. One America News Network, which is not carried by the major cable providers (Xfinity, DirecTV, Verizon Fios), is looking to bring Carlson on board. BlazeTV has expressed a desire for him to join. Even Russian state media outlet RT appeared to offer Carlson a job.
“There’s a point of how much more can Tucker do there is a good question,” media analyst Jon Nicosia, a former editor at Mediaite, told The Epoch Times. “He gets bored pretty easily and I’m not sure this is how he thought it was going to end, but … he can start a podcast tomorrow and have Joe Rogan-level people.”
Nicosia also raised the possibility of Carlson doing a joint venture with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who was one of Carlson’s final major interviews.
“He’ll reemerge,” said Nicosia.
But will Fox News reemerge in the 8 p.m. hour?
“Fox shouldn’t be counted out quite yet because when Bill O’Reilly left for far different circumstances, at least we know as of now, under a clout of repeated [alleged] examples of sexual harassment … there were concerns, ‘What are we going to do? O’Reilly had been the most-watched person in cable news for many, many years, nearly an entire generation or at least half a generation,’” Curtis Houck, the managing editor of the conservative media watchdog Media Research Center’s blog, NewsBusters, told The Epoch Times.
“Fox News just still has just a unique standing in our body politic that to just suggest that this leaves them dead in the water, as some people have, I don’t really think you can say that,” he added.
Nicosia predicted that Jesse Watters, who helms the 7 p.m. slot at Fox News, will succeed Carlson and that viewers are “basically going to hear Jesse come up and say the same stuff that Tucker said.”