Glenn Beck's highly-choreographed exit from Fox News -- announced Wednesday-- leaves two critical, unanswered questions:
1. What is Glenn Beck going to do?
There has been plenty of chatter that Beck may attempt to go out on his own, either on TV or online.
While his 5 p.m. ratings on Fox were in a tailspin, his daily radio show was audience holding steady -- even as some affiliates, like hundreds of advertisers on his Fox show, dropped Beck over his increasingly toxic views.
A one-man media empire -- that would include his radio show, fledgling website and, once his presumed non-compete with Fox is up, daily TV show -- is being considered.
Also read: Glenn Beck Agrees to End Fox News Show
Beck himself hinted as much last month while addressing swirling rumors about his television contract with Fox on his radio show.
Yes, my contract is up at the end of the year. Contracts do that. ... The only thing in life that is constant is change. And so while things, and I don’t know which, will change, all things do, but I know that we’ll continue to find each other whether on the radio, the internet, on stage, in movie theatres, in the pages of books that the New York elite will never read or on Fox that the New York elite will never watch.
Meanwhile, Beck and his team have been contemplating "a partial or wholesale takeover of a cable channel" -- like Oprah! -- or "an expansion of his subscription video service on the Web" (i.e. TheBlaze.com, according to the Times).
Either option is problematic. For one thing, slumping ratings at 5 p.m. don’t exactly translate into a solid cable audience spread across an entire day. And the Beck Channel would be launching without that pool of 400 advertisers that fled his 5 p.m. show.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle to Beck’s own spot on the dial: he’d be competing with Fox News itself. “People who watch Fox keep it on,” said one cable news executive. “They’re loyal, from Shep through O’Reilly.”
A premium, Web-only broadcast, a route other scorned talk show hosts from Howard Stern to Conan O’Brien have considered, would be a better option. But, as longtime Beck-foe Keith Olbermann gleefully wrote on his blog on Wednesday, it’s a tough sell, even for Beck loyalists:
Ask them now to pay an additional premium? Beck has come to be a kind of touchstone for the Tea Party crowd and this is the wrong time to ask the Tea Party to pony up some extra green.
Also worth noting: Beck drew nearly drew 100,000 to Washington, D.C. for his “Restoring Honor” rally in August. But how many would he have drawn without the Fox News machine to promote it.
2. Who will replace him on Fox News?
As for what Fox News will do once Beck vacates his timeslot, there are plenty of options for the “fair and balanced” network to fill the Beck void.
I’ve heard several names mentioned as early favorites: Judge Andrew Napolitano, who filled in admirably last month while Beck was on vaction; Eric Bolling, from the Fox Business Channel; and rising FNC star Megyn Kelly.
Whoever -- or whatever -- replaces Beck at 5 p.m., they/it will be a welcome relief to Fox’s ad sales department, as one a source close to the show said, “given they would actually be able to sell the program."