The Year in Cable News: Fox News Ends Another Contentious Year at the Top

The Year in Cable News: Fox News Ends Another Contentious Year at the Top

In a year of major news stories – the Boston Marathon bombing, NSA leaks, the government shutdown – the story behind the story has never been more important. TheWrap takes a look at the networks that brought you these stories 24 hours a day for the past 365 days, their highs and lows, and what you can expect from them in the new year.

First in TheWrap's year-end cable news series

Two narratives dominate media reporting about Fox News. The first focuses on the indisputable fact that Fox is a success. The network is poised to finish 2013 at the top of cable news rankings by a wide margin, as it has done for 12 consecutive years (see charts below).

It also ends the year as the fourth most watched network in all of basic cable, and the sixth most watched in primetime. Neither CNN nor MSNBC ranked in the top 25 in either category.

Also Read: Cable News Ratings for Third Quarter 2013: No Surprises

The network could have been content with that success, but ratings began to soften late last year, particularly in the tried-and-true primetime lineup that had consisted of “The O'Reilly Factor” at 8pm ET, followed by “Hannity” (& Colmes until Jan. 2009), and “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren.”

So Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes decided to blow up the schedule, moving Greta up to 7pm and Hannity back to 10 to make room for Megyn Kelly, who made her primetime debut with “The Kelly File” on Oct. 7.

“Roger wanted to change the way Americans got their news,” Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News Channel, told TheWrap in a phone interview.

Also Read: Fox News Shuffles Primetime Lineup: Megyn Kelly's Show Gets 9 p.m. Timeslot

“The idea of the traditional newscast was dying; the numbers for broadcast networks’ nightly news – they haven't gone up for 15 years.”

Most of the focus has been on primetime changes, but Ailes also shuffled dayside. The opportunity to hire Elisabeth Hasselbeck presented itself, Shine said, so bringing her aboard to co-host morning show “Fox & Friends” allowed Fox to give Gretchen Carlson her own hour.

The biggest change on the news side was promoting veteran Shepard Smith to managing editor and head of the new multi-platform breaking news division. The primetime shakeup meant Smith lost his second live hour at 7pm.

Also Read: How Shepard Smith and the Fox News Deck Covered the LAX Shooting

The second narrative centers around the many controversies that erupt from the network on a regular basis. Organizations like Media Matters – which in 2011 declared a “war on Fox” – exist almost exclusively to track, challenge, and attempt to discredit Fox News reporting.

Some of the most-read stories on TheWrap last week were about primetime host Kelly’s assertion that both Santa Claus and Jesus Christ are indisputably white — a claim that offended many. She later said she was kidding, but not before network news rivals and late-night shows took her to task.

Also Read: Megyn Kelly Says Her ‘White Santa’ Critics Are Race-Baiting

Such stories routinely threaten to discredit the company's claim to being “Fair and Balanced.” Days before she opined about Santa's race, Kelly told Jay Leno, “I’m a straight news anchor; I’m not one of the opinion hosts.”

But the debates have never hurt Fox in the ratings. They may even help. Here is where the narratives intersect.

Shine told TheWrap that competitors and critics alike do whatever they can to try to push Fox from the top of the ladder.

Also Read: Fox News Boosted by Iran Nuclear Deal Coverage

“When you win, when you have a lot of success, it scares people,” he said.

“You’re taking viewers from their channels, you’re making money – in terms of ad dollars,” so competitors like CNN and MSNBC have no choice but to fire shots across the bow.

Shine dismisses the regular barbs the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” throw at the channel.

“For some reason people think some of the shows on Comedy Central are news shows. They’re not. They’re comedy shows,” Shine said, adding that the writers’ job is to cherry pick and produce entertaining content.

Also Read: Jon Stewart on Fox News and Its White Santa Debate (Video)

Asked whether the constant attacks harm the company’s ability to do its daily job, Shine said unequivocally, “No.”

Fox boasts low turnover and a strong company culture, both of which contribute to its ratings success, Shine says.

“What Roger likes to say is, he hires good people. He hires good on-air people, he hires good producers, he hires good technicians… and he gives them the tools necessary to do their jobs,” Shine said.

“There’s a lot of happy people around here,” he added.

Also Read: Megyn Kelly's Fox News Show Soars in Day 2 Ratings

And perhaps there should be. Though Fox is down four percent year-over-year in total day viewership and 13 percent in primetime, the addition of “The Kelly File” at 9 p.m. has proven explosive for the network. 2012 was an election year that benefitted from higher viewership across all networks, due in part to primetime debates and results coverage.

Shine said the biggest challenge heading into 2014 will be gearing up to cover midterm elections, which will be critical for both parties. And talk of the 2016 race won’t be far behind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Burphelson AFB

    yech, I wouldn't watch Fix Noise if ya paid me. Shrill, stupid, partisan and just plain wrong on issues.

    • Stuart W

      Yeah Burps-You've really been a solid impediment to Fox News success. Imagine Fox has been “paying” you to stay away-you are doubtless their
      lucky charm. Your negative comments on a network you don't watch says it all for your unmatched reliability

      • Burphelson AFB

        I can't help it if a majority of cable news users are dumb enough to watch Fix and actually think they are getting “fair and balanced” news. Everyone knows its nothing but a republican mouthpiece.

        • Stuart W

          Hey Burphelsville. Is “speaking English” one of your major skill sets? Suggest you READ the article offered in the text. (“The Year in Cable News”) Fox News in top (fourth) place rating ALL cable stations. (That includes sports) Your beloved CNN and MSNBC failed to crack the top 25. People watch Fox News because their announcers and support-staff are smart, bright and attractive and competent; try also “interesting” as compared the sick, misogynist nil-heards (Ed Schultz and like clowns) representing the competition's hate-mongering offal-mouthed diatribe. If you “can't help it” you obviously can't understand it. Suggest a refund on that Internet language class you've been languishing in the last decade.

          • Burphelson AFB

            Being “attractive” but spouting lies and half truths isnt anything to be proud of. Being divisive isnt a solid marketing plan – not good for this country but you probably live by the republican standard of “I got mine.”

          • Burphelson AFB

            hey Stuart – just got around to reading this. try eating some offal and blow it out your pie-hole! :)

        • DREZD

          And your not a democratic kool-aid drinker, you would not know what the truth is unless it's spouted by the white house and we all know they don't LIE.

          • Stevennnnn

            People as in the retirees who sit home all day and are scared as shitless as the world around them is changing and they are being left behind?

            The fact of the matter is young people don't watch cable news, a lot of them don't even have cable to begin with. FOX ratings will continue on their downward spiral as their audience dies out and is not being replaced.

          • Burphelson AFB

            from now on I'm only watching Call of the Wildman… Maybe Man Vs Food.

    • SamyyCiao

      Burph – how can you not watch at least Megyn Kelly – who cares about the news watching her!

  • greatj

    Only wood/headed Obama toads hate Fox news.

    • MarkJeffries

      Does that mean that there are 300 million “wood/;headed Obama toads,
      racist teabagger? That's how many people DON'T watch FNC.

      • WJM980

        It's pretty clear that they're not watching any of the libby channels either.

        • joyfuljoy

          Hey, we're channel surfers, we don't belong to any cult!!!! We watch CNN, PBS, and the movie channels that have great series, and we make up our mind without some blonde bimbo's telling us what to think.

      • greatj

        You are a typical example by saying '300 million’ and then spewing racists name calling. Keep watching M.S.N.B.C. and you will need a brain transplant.

        • MarkJeffries

          How many people watch FNC, teabagger? Tell me (this should be fun).

          • greatj

            More than any other cable network.

          • MarkJeffries

            Numbers, please? And “by other cable network,” do you mean just news channels or all cable channels?

          • joyfuljoy

            That's easy because cult members are paralyzed at the thought of leaving the cult. THEY CAN”T DO IT.

        • Brent Holman

          I like to look at the wall, it doesn't have an opinion.

      • Donald Graham

        According to wikipedia “As of January 6, 2014, the United States has a total resident population of 317,413,000” so by your 300 million who don't watch that means only 17 million watch? Doesn't match with the ratings, no does it?

        • Brent Holman

          Hey, if Neilson is anything like Standard & Poors, I would add a factor of 100 plus or minus.

      • lobo22238

        There we go again….if you don't like President Obama you must be racist.

        • joyfuljoy

          SO glad to see you ‘got it'. Congrats!

    • Burphelson AFB

      Speaking of wood, how do you feel when you see roger ailes or sean hannity? Does the word “boinggg” come to mind?

      • Brent Holman

        Hannity “The Calamity” can suck my dick.

  • Str8_man

    I like Fox News, but I like CNN too. MSNBC is too far left and makes no bones about it. But I don't hate you if you're liberal. I think you're worng, but I don't hate you. Can we all lighten up on the vitriol a bit?

    • Brent Holman

      Lean Forward, whatever the hell that means.

  • Joe Blow

    “The network is poised to finish 2013 at the top of cable news rankings by a wide margin, as it has done for 12 consecutive years” ‘Nuff said.

    • PT

      You do realize that if you spread Fox's ratings across 8 to 10 networks, as real news is spread between CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, HLN, PBS, etc and factor in internet news, they would not have the ratings they do. It's simple math. The country is and always has been center right. So Fox gets about 40% of the viewership available for news, the rest of the country is spread across the above, which matches up almost exactly to voter registration and election numbers.

  • Joe Blow

    “The network is poised to finish 2013 at the top of cable news rankings by a wide margin, as it has done for 12 consecutive years ” Why doesn't MSNBC just give it up?

    • Brent Holman

      You actually give a crap about this chit? Really? Try getting a life.

  • Joe Blow

    “It also ends the year as the fourth most watched network in all of basic cable, and the sixth most watched in primetime. Neither CNN nor MSNBC ranked in the top 25 in either category.” Blown away like the Death Star.

    • Ronin

      Fox's ratings are artificialy inflated because they aren't a real news network, they are entertainment. It's the only cable network where right leaning veiwers can tune in to have their craven ideoligy reinforced. Put simply, they have no competition as the other networks at least attemp to report the news as it actually happened, which spilts their adience over several networks. Add to that the fact that independents and especially liberals are younger and more educated and get their news from multiple outlets – and platforms – like newspapers. We forget how hard it used to be to lie and mislead when you had to put it down in WRITING i.e print.

      • Every day people

        You sound desperate?

        • Says Who

          Desperate or not, I think the people on Fox are just easier to look at.

          • Brent Holman

            They have larger breasts, thats for sure.

          • joyfuljoy

            And shorter skirts…if they get much shorter, they'll be vying with Sharon Stone to show their you-know-what.

      • Brent Holman

        MSNBC is almost exclusively opinion, they just don't make any bones about it. Foxy News pretends to be news reporting, but they lie.
        They do an hour a day of actual news. Bret Baer Rocks!

  • Joe Blow

    “Organizations like Media Matters – which in 2011 declared a “war on Fox” – exist almost exclusively to track, challenge, and attempt to discredit Fox News reporting.” Good Luck.

    • Brent Holman

      The only war is the war on Christmas!!!!! also, Benghazi!!!!!!

      • joyfuljoy

        This is what we are trying to tell you cult members….there is no war on Christmas and Benghazi is over and done with. BTW, you show such concern for 4 deaths and take 4000 unnecessary deaths in stride….makes me wonder about you and your ‘compassion'.

  • Joe Blow

    “Asked whether the constant attacks harm the company’s ability to do its daily job, Shine said unequivocally, “No.” Yeah, Jesus put up with a lot of doubters and naysayers, and we know how that played out.

  • newsball

    and oh yeah guess which network covers the super bowl and guess who's getting the interview oh yeah that's right Fox covers the Super Bowl this year so guess whose getting that interview Bill O'Reilly and this will be the 3rd time he's had this interview. plus the whole white santa thing was because she looked at a blogger on slate and oh this is just another ridiclous headline until she looked at the story. Plus again if Fox News is so intolerant, why do some of the left-wing people have slots, it's because unlike MSNBC, who has one faux consertaive, fox actually allows the other side and oh yeah abc and cnn lost there top white-house correspondants because henry and roberts were on the right of there bosses

    • ronin

      There are no liberals hosts on fox ‘news’ and the so called liberal guests are plants. Dont be a idiot

      • newsball

        uh ronin the what would you call bob beckel, as he is co-host of the five and oh yeah he isn't any plant as he firmly believes his views are right, but i guess he doesn't count because he's a co-host

        • Brent Holman

          Bob Beckel is hilarious, he is so burnt out he just doesn't give a crap anymore, which is truly rich.

          • joyfuljoy

            You are so right! He has given up on being listened to by Fox cult members.

        • joyfuljoy

          A co-host with 4 idiots who hardly let him get a word in edge-wise.

      • newsball

        also i guess juan williams, joe trippi, kirsten powers, juan williams, alan colmes, ebony williams and on there all just plants by fox news, boy they would have to do a lot of brainwashing

        • joyfuljoy

          I suppose you haven't noticed that they always remain quietly in the background and are talked OVER all the time. Bob Beckel is made fun of all the time by the ladies who obviously like him because he is so laid back but they are rude as hell when it comes to Obama. Bunch of redneck racists.

    • amir zara

      Please learn your English before posting comments .(there top there bosses)

  • Martind35

    Cognitive dissonance, which arises from the perception of ideas or phenomena that are inconsistent with one's belief system, causes stress. We are genetically programed to avoid stress. One means of reducing stress is to lower cognitive dissonance. And one effective way of avoiding cognitive dissonance is to (a) avoid the perception of inconsistent ideas or phenomena altogether and/or (b) substitute the perceived inconsistent information with information that is consistent–whether true–or truer–or not. This is called “confirmation bias.” We seek out information that tends to confirm our biases and then choose to believe that information rather that other information, somewhat regardless of the accuracy or credibility of it. Because so much factual data and reporting produces information inconsistent with the belief structure of folks who are or become Fox News viewers–call them what you will–Fox News is the beneficiary of this fact of human nature and they exploit it to the advantage of their owners and allied organizations, such as the GOP. Because they are more willing than other sources to disregard the accuracy of their reporting for the sake of serving this role, their viewers are a concentrated population of confirmation bias seekers who have no alternative that services their need. No other outlet warps or ignores facts with such conspicuous unprincipled disregard or accountability. And they don't care. They don't want Pulitzer prizes or awards for accuracy in reporting. They want eyeballs and they want votes. This serves Roger Ailes’ mission to acquire (1) money and (2) power. It works for him anyway. Not sure it does much for the country and it certainly does nothing to lift the standards of reporting the news to the public. As frequent studies confirm, Fox viewers are less well informed than people who watch no television news. And other television viewers who are not avoiding the truth have numerous other viewing choices that service their desire to become informed. This splinters those truth seekers across a number of channels, lowering each channels share. However, taken as an aggregate, the number of viewers not watching Fox but viewing television news vastly exceeds the share of viewers Fox receives. So while Fox can tout a statistical win in the ratings game, it doesn't prove they are the choice of truth seeking viewers and may, in fact, prove quite to opposite: it is the last resort for those viewers hoping to avoid the truth as long as they possibly can.

    • wheels

      Is confirmation bias a factor in viewing choices by progressives? What studies confirm the assertion that FOX viewers are less well informed than those (I wonder what percent of Americans that might be) that don't watch TV.

      • Brent Holman

        People who watch Fox News are watching opinions about news.
        And the massive amount of words above are lifted whole cloth from somewhere else, with no attribution, much like Brer Foxy News, which will ALWAYS find a Tar Baby!

  • Brent Holman

    Two narratives dominate media reporting about Fox News. YUP!

    I like all the data that shows a tiny fraction of the population even watches cable news. Did I mention YUP?

  • Joy McClellan

    Who is surprised at Fox's ratings. You can't get one of their cult members to change the channel and it's on all day whether they are watching or not.

  • joyfuljoy

    Fox news just caters to their cult members who keep their tv on Fox 24/7. Just visited one of their cult members and try to change the channel….you will catch their wrath even if you ask politely ‘can we watch something else?'.

  • SamyyCiao

    The 15 million unemployed college kids living in the Mom & Dad's basement who do not count on the unemployment numbers yet becasue they never worked and Obama got to vote for him by blasting them with info on the internet which many old time Republicans do not even know exist — do not watch Fox or MSNBC but Star Trek reruns from 30 years ago and surf porn, use facebook and twitter all day long! Maybe some of the liberal types would watch MSNBC but my guess is the youn men would watch Fox and their good looking ladies becasue MSNBC does not believe in hiring any women who has good looks – and women that is a good question?

  • PT

    If you spread Fox's ratings across 8 to 10 networks, as real news is spread between CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, HLN, PBS, etc and factor in internet news, they would not have the ratings they do. It's simple math. The country is and always has been center right. So Fox gets about 40% of the viewership available for news, the rest of the country is spread across the above, which matches up almost exactly to voter registration and election numbers. Like someone said recently, it's all about the math baby. And the internet has become such a factor that it totally flew under the radar for conservatives, which is why they actually believed Romney was going to win in a landslide. And that landslide was particularly painful for Fox, was it not. Well, the exact opposite of what your ‘news’ predicts happening kind of puts their whole ‘news’ reporting on notice as suspect, does it not?