Thursday, August 27, 2009

What will Fox News do with Glenn Beck?

Back in 2007 Don Imus set off a bomb when he called the women basketball team at Rutgers University "nappy headed hoes" during his daily broadcast on CBS Radio and MSNBC TV and was dismissed from both networks. Within no time Imus was back on the air on a different radio (Citadel) and TV (RFD-TV) network. Imus is about to upgrade his TV affiliation by joining the Fox Business Network. Imus rebuilt a significant amount of audience in no time and is bringing that crowd to Rupert Murdoch's business TV network.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the savviest people in media today, but his Fox News network is in a similar dilemma that MSNBC was in with Imus. Glenn Beck, host of the ever popular "Glenn Beck Show" told the Fox viewing public back in July (on the network's morning show, "Fox and Friends") that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people and white culture." It was really an off the cuff statement spoken in passing upon observing some of the President's choices, that led Beck coming to such a conclusion. Off the cuff? Maybe, but it has created a stir and has the network buckling down as it faces an onslaught of attack. An organization called the Color of Change has waged a boycott on the network and it has been effective in the financial arena. The Atlantic points out that "Lots of big companies who advertise on Fox have signed onto the boycott, orchestrated by Color of Change to protest Beck's proposition that President Obama is a racist, reportedly including Wal-Mart, Sprint, Travelers Insurance, General Mills, DirecTV, Geico, Progressive, Procter & Gamble, Radio Shack, Men's Wearhouse, GMAC Financial Services--at least 36 companies in all. (UPDATE: as commenter Mike Cee points out, Color of Change put the total at 46 after announcing 10 more yesterday.)" An hour long program would typically not have more than 40 sponsors, so this is a huge number by any standard.

I think that many advertisers who are currently on the Glenn Beck Show are not actual sponsors of his program, but of the network in general and are being placed in the "best times available" (BTA) which is one of the cheapest media buys. Many of these ad buyers are getting multiples of the exposure they are use to receiving at BTA. If this is the case, Fox News is probably losing money compared to what they normally enjoy for Glenn Beck's hour. However, I think everyone, even Beck and Fox News, are crying all the way to the bank. The LA Times points out in an article titled "UPDATED: As boycott continues, Glenn Beck's audience swells" that the TV host and Fox network "attracted 2.81 million viewers Monday, his third-largest audience since his show launched on Fox News in January, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by the network. On Tuesday, nearly 2.7 million viewers tuned in, his fifth-largest viewership to date. And the conservative host got a plug from former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who urged people to watch his program in a post on her Facebook page." The Times went on to quote Palin, saying “"FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House,' she wrote Wednesday to her 800,000-plus supporters."

In light of the audience Beck is receiving and the "ink" the networking is enjoying in the media, this temporary lost in revenue is little more than a high priced advertising campaign that should pay the network off significantly over time. As long as Murdoch and his team take a strategic approach and stay with the host, the network should be all the better when the dust finally settles.

If Fox can't handle the heat, I think the ratings hungry MSNBC would be delighted to get Glenn Beck in what they might call "Don Imus Revenge."

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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