If you’ve been reading all the “obituaries” on the O’Reilly era at FNC – and you would have to be living under a rock to avoid them – you’d think losing O’Reilly is a huge loss.
It might have been at one time but it hasn’t been the case for a while now.
The world (and by extension FNC) reached peak O’Reilly 11 years ago. His ratings now may be higher than 11 years ago but in terms of brand and perception, Bill O’Reilly was the top dog and the trailblazer at FNC in 2006, neither of which he was by the time of his ouster in 2017.
The world didn’t pass O’Reilly by but a series of things happened which made O’Reilly look almost mainstream and tame by comparison.
I first touched on this subject six years ago when I asked if Bill O’Reilly had become passe. In that article I noted that Glenn Beck’s arrival at FNC had made O’Reilly look a little tame by comparison.
But now looking back, it was more than that. Beck’s arrival signaled the beginning of the end of Bill O’Reilly as the barometer of FNC. He may have gotten the top ratings but he was no longer going to be the water cooler driver he had been prior to Beck’s arrival. Glenn Beck’s antics made O’Reilly look antiquated by comparison.
Similarly, another change that occurred around the same time as Beck’s arrival also contributed to the diversification of FNC’s brand from O’Reilly centric to diffuse across multiple talents; the breakup of Hannity and Colmes.
Dumping Colmes off the show made Hannity his own force of nature for the network. He already had some cachet but with Colmes hanging around the spotlight was never completely his. With Colmes gone Hannity was able to solidify his position and brand at FNC as the ultimate conservative base pandering homer.
Yes, that’s a derogatory way of putting it but that was and still is his function at FNC. You want consistency? You watch Hannity. You want your world reaffirmed? You watch Hannity. You don’t necessarily get that from O’Reilly because he can occasionally throw a maddening curve ball your way.
With Hannity holding down the base and Beck holding down the fringe, O’Reilly was no longer the perceived center of the FNC opinion universe…regardless of what his ratings did.
And then after Beck left there was The Five which broke up O’Reilly’s once upon a time iron grasp on FNC’s opinion center even further by providing a platform for more people to shoot there mouths off.
POV analysis which in 2006 centered chiefly on O’Reilly had, by 2017, dispersed itself to many fiefdoms. Hannity, The Five, Outnumbered, Tucker Carlson…it wasn’t just O’Reilly’s show any more.
This is why, though the ratings may dip a little from what O’Reilly had, Tucker Carlson’s takeover of 8pm should not hurt FNC financially to any significant degree. It’s why FNC can move The Five from 5pm to 9pm. It’s why slotting Eric Bolling in at 5 won’t do much if any ratings damage there either.
FNC diversified. It wasn’t just O’Reilly’s kingdom anymore. It’s why FNC will be just fine without O’Reilly.