The man who more put Fox News on the radar of American viewers has been fired. The network has ended its 21-year relationship with “The O’Reilly Factor” star host Bill O’Reilly. It comes after continuing reports that he and the network paid settlements to five women who accused him of sexual harassment, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Twentieth Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch wrote Tuesday night that “Fox News is preparing to cut ties with star anchor Bill O’Reilly,” according to people close to the situation. Reportedly Murdoch was against the firing, while his two sons, who are also on the board, wanted O’Reilly gone.
O’Reilly had announced on air last Wednesday he was “taking a vacation” and would be back April 24th. There had been hope the scandal would pass, but continued pressure on the network pushed the decision.
The polling agency, Morning Consult, had asked more than 2,000 random people their opinion of whether to keep O’Reilly or fire him. What may have been Fox’s deciding factor, a surprising 46 percent said the show should be cancelled, while only 22 percent said it should continue.
Those surveyed that regularly watch the “The O’Reilly Factor,” 58 percent were in favor of keeping O’Reilly aboard. Of those who said they watch “The O’Reilly Factor,” 58 percent said the host should stay vs. 22 percent who said cancel. A similar poll earlier in the month showed more positive results.
Twentieth Century Fox may now concern themselves with viewership fallout. How many of O’Reilly’s loyal audience will tune off Fox News altogether? Where will O’Reilly go? Will he start his own cable news show, blog, or what? He leaves a huge audience for a cable news show in the lurch.
Nevertheless, Laura Martin, a Needham & Company equity analyst, told Morning Consult, O’Reilly has become “A tarnished brand, brands have become more sensitive and demanding about the context in which their ads appear. These brands are sick of spending money next to things that make people not buy their product.”
More than sixty advertisers on O’Reilly’s show requested to be moved to other Fox programming. In the end, money may have been the overriding concern. Who will replace the cable news giant?
The current prime-time Fox News lineup includes Tucker Carlson, who replaced the departed Megyn Kelly, and Sean Hannity. Neither is expected to take O’Reilly’s place. The disgraced commentator is expected to return from his vacation in Italy on Monday.