X CEO Linda Yaccarino is “working out the terms” to keep jettisoned Fox News host Tucker Carlson on the social media platform, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Carlson, launched “Tucker on Twitter” in June, a month before owner Elon Musk changed the name of the platform to X.
He also formed a media company reportedly named “Last Country,” which has raised $15 million in seed funding, leading to widespread speculation on his next move. Carlson inked his first independent advertising deal last month, an agreement with conservative shopping app Public Square reportedly work “at least $1 million.”
The polarizing pundit on Monday aired his 36th episode, in which he suggested that convicted fraudster Martin Shkreli did four and a half years in prison because he once gave Hilary Clinton “the finger,” that has so far drawn 2.8 million views. His videos can pull in upwards of 30 million, as the prior episode on war refugees did, though as TheWrap has previously reported, any claims about engagement on Twitter/X videos cannot be taken at face value.
The concern with Carlson is that traditional advertisers — the bigger target for Yaccarino — get nervous about having their brands appear to support his contentious content. Carlson’s show on Fox was identified by the New York Times as “the most racist show in the history of cable news,” and subsequently saw widespread advertiser exits and efforts by activists to get advertisers boycott the program.
Yaccarino’s larger goal is to restore major brand advertisers to X. She has been working with brands to encourage them to tie their ads to less controversial content, like “sports, music, business and gaming,” The Journal reported, as they balk at spending on the platform.
In September, prior to the war, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the antisemitism on the platform makes him question whether its appropriate to continue advertising on X. That was a few days after Musk threatened to sue the Anti Defamation League, blaming the organization for a 60% drop in ad revenue because it calls out bigoted speech on the platform and discourages advertisers from spending there.
But Yaccarino, who joined X in May from NBCUniversal, is using her longstanding ties in the television industry to gambit that she can use new, video-based content to lure advertisers back, The Journal reported.
Among her efforts are talks to extend X’s current three-year, $100-million deal with the NFL, which expires in April, The Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. She’s also met with the National Basketball Association to revive a similar deal that has already sunset, and the company is eyeing a new deal with Major League Soccer, in particular phenom Lionel Messi, the report said.
She’s also considering partnerships with celebrities, and recently struck one with reality star Paris Hilton.
“It’s like putting training wheels on to get back on X for larger brands that are often nervous,” Craig Atkinson, chief executive officer of digital marketing agency Code3, told The Journal. Emphasizing professional sports and creator content can give X “time to reinforce that the platform is a clean, well-lit place for brands,” he said.
Yaccarino in September predicted that X will be profitable in 2024. At that time, she said that 90% of advertisers had returned to the platform, but reportedly most are spending far less than they did before.