Hey, if it worked for Rachel Maddow… On Tuesday, the extra-bright spotlight on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” handed the 10 p.m. ET show a big 2.5 million total viewers, with 565,000 of them coming from the advertiser-sought 25-54 demographic.
Those impressive per-minute Nielsen averages mean the episode — which Hannity had built up in advance on Twitter with promises of a “huge announcement” — soared 50 percent over the same evening last year in terms of overall audience members. (Back then, the show still had “The O’Reilly Factor” in front of it.)
In the main demo, the jump was even more dramatic: Sean Hannity’s self-titled show rose 68 percent versus the comparable night in 2016.
So how did he pull it off? Well, by pulling a little bit of a Twitter bait-and-switch.
OK, so perhaps that term is a bit too harsh, but Hannity surely oversold the importance of the announcement he aimed to make on last night’s show.
He tweeted the following yesterday around the east coast’s dinner time:
Huge announcement tonight about Seth Rich, Trump/Russian Collusion corrupt media, the liberal effort to silence me. And my future at Fox!
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 23, 2017
Sound familiar, “Rachel Maddow Show” fans?
It was Hannity’s careful selection of the phrases “huge announcement” and “my future at Fox” that really lathered up anticipation on social media — and the media media.
After all, context counts, and it’s been only a month since Fox News let longtime ratings champ Bill O’Reilly go. It’s been even less time since the departure of former network boss Bill Shine. Plus, the death of founding CEO Roger Ailes still looms large less than one week after his passing.
Add in Hannity’s teasing of conspiracy theories surrounding the murder last year of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich — the one the host walked back from last night — and surely the seasoned host knew that this particular tweet would generate a ton of attention. Clearly, it did.
Hannity received considerable criticism for promoting unfounded allegations that Rich provided internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks, and that Rich may have been killed for doing so. Rich was shot to death last July in Washington, D.C., in what police have investigated as a robbery gone wrong.
In March, MSNBC’s Maddow sent Twitter into a frenzy shortly before her own show started, tweeting out that she had President Trump’s tax return.
She later clarified that it was his 2005 form 1040, not a complete record of his financials. Democrats and reporters had been trying to get the former “Celebrity Apprentice” host to reveal his tax returns since his campaign kicked off.
The actual episode was kind of a dud — as Maddow herself later acknowledged, the document didn’t contain any major “bombshell” — except in TV ratings. That night, “The Rachel Maddow Show” landed record Nielsen ratings, topping her own high-water mark by 28 percent.
Don’t get any bright ideas, Anderson Cooper.