Glenn Beck fans and foes, take note: For those wondering if Fox News — which is “contemplating life without Beck” — can survive, last week was a good indicator that it can.
Beck, whose contract is up in December, was on vacation — with Judge Andrew Napolitano filling in on Beck’s 5 p.m. show Monday through Thursday (Friday's show was pre-empted by coverage of the earthquake in Japan, and anchored by Fox’s Shepard Smith).
And the jury is in on the Judge: Napolitano held his own, maintaining roughly the same audience that Beck has drawn in 2011 — and, like Beck usually does, beat CNN, MSNBC, HLN and CNBC combined in total viewers.
Here are the four-day averages for Mon.-Thurs. last week, provided by Nielsen:
>> FNC's Glenn Beck*: 1,851,000 total viewers (412,000 25-54-year-olds)
>> CNN's Situation Room: 581,000 (157,000)
>> MSNBC's Hardball: 661,000 (155,000)
>> CNBC's Fast Money: 203,000 (47,000)
>> HLN’s Showbiz Tonight: 201,000 (65,000)
* With Napolitano
So far in 2011, Beck has averaged 1,904,000 total viewers, and 448,000 25-54-year-olds.
It’s a good sign for Fox News ad sales department, which has seen hundreds of advertisers flee Beck’s show like a bedbug-infested Abercrombie + Fitch.
And it's an even better sign for Napolitano, who ought to be considered on the short-list to replace Beck, should Fox not renew Beck’s contract.
"Fox would be more than happy to take numbers like these,” according to a source close to the show, “given that they would actually be able to sell the program."
Worth noting that when other stars, like Bill O’Reilly, have guest hosts, the viewership slips considerably. On Feb. 1, a Tuesday, O’Reilly’s show drew 3.627 million total viewers at 8 p.m.; the next day, with O’Reilly on vacation, that number dropped to 2.935 million — followed by an O’Reilly-less 2.811 million and 2.522 million on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Also worth noting (as we have previously; see "His Ratings Fizzling, Has Glenn Beck Lost His Mojo?"): Beck’s ratings have been in a free-fall for some time now. He's seen nine consecutive month-over-month declines in total viewers, and seven among 25-to-54-year-olds. Through March 1, Beck's show was down 35 percent in total viewers in 2011 (averaging 1.9 million over the first seven weeks, compared to 2.93 million last year) and 44 percent in the demo (447,000 vs. 793,000 a year ago).