It’s been one full year since Bill O’Reilly’s abrupt exit from Fox News, and there’s good and bad news for Tucker Carlson, his successor in the 8 p.m. ET slot.
The bad news: Carlson can’t touch the ratings Bill O’Reilly scored during the 2016 election and the first days of the Trump administration. The good news is that Carlson is beating O’Reilly’s ratings from before all that drama broke out — and more than holding his own in a slot that the disgraced host ruled for more than a decade.
The other good news: Fox News continues to dominate its competitors, CNN and MSNBC, as the No. 1 network in cable news, including in the 8 o’clock hour.
O’Reilly’s 2016 and 2017 ratings were spectacular, but they were also amplified by the 2016 presidential election and early weeks of President Donald Trump in the White House. In 2016, O’Reilly rode the Trump train to an average of more than 3.3 million total viewers, and about 573,000 viewers in the key 25-54-year-old demographic coveted by advertisers.
In the first quarter of 2017 — his last full quarter on air — O’Reilly averaged more than 4 million viewers overall and 740,000 in the key demo.
In the first quarter of 2018, his successor, Tucker Carlson, averaged just under 3 million viewers daily, and just over 600,000 viewers in the demo — down from the last two years but beating O’Reilly’s numbers for Q1 of the pre-Trump era 2013, 2014 and 2015.
And the primetime newbie was well ahead of his time-slot competitors. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was just shy of 2 million viewers and 422,000 in the demo for the first quarter of 2018, while CNN’s Anderson Cooper drew 1.17 million viewers, with 394,000 in the demo for the first hour of “AC360.”
“The ratings for ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ continue to exceed our expectations and we’re thrilled that he has dominated the timeslot since moving to 8 p.m.” a network spokesperson told TheWrap.
O’Reilly was fired from Fox News on April 19, 2017, weeks after the New York Times reported that he and Fox News had paid $13 million in settlements with numerous women who had accused the star of sexual harassment. The news prompted an advertiser boycott that led to his final episodes running almost commercial-free.
After his departure, the Times revealed the existence of an additional O’Reilly settlement totaling $32 million — a deal the New York Times said Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, was aware of.
O’Reilly was fired from Fox News before the broader awareness brought on by the #MeToo movement swept Hollywood and the news media last year.
The host has continued to remain in the public eye, both on Twitter, his own web show and occasionally as a contributor to Newsmax TV.