O’Reilly despite having the highest rated and most profitable show in cable news is likely out at the network
The biggest and most profitable star in the cable news business, Bill O’Reilly is on his way out of Fox News. The news broke last night when The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdock, was reporting that 21st Century Fox was indeed in conversations about how best to start an exit strategy for the star.
Brian Stelter, the Media Columnist for CNN was reporting that the decision on O’Reilly will likely come at the end of the week, just after a board meeting by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Two weeks ago The New York Times, reported that Fox paid out $13 million to five women who accused the talk show host of sexual harassment. O’Reilly told The Times that he settled only to avoid hurting his family.
Meanwhile, should Fox News part ways with O’Reilly, that would mean a total takedown of the network that built the most profitable ratings monster in cable news. Gone in one year would be the man who built the network from scratch, Roger Ailes (sexual harassment issues), along with two of their top primetime personalities in O’Reilly and Megyn Fox (left for NBC).
That is a major punch in the gut to the network but they would go about creating new stars as they did with Tucker Carlson. Losing O’Reilly, would be a big hit to the network and making up his audience along with the cash would take time. But 21st Century Fox seems willing to take that hit.
According to multiple media outlets there are no formal conversations going on between 21th Century Fox and Bill O’Reilly or his representatives. Again, a final decision on how he will be handled is not likely to happen until the 21st Century Fox board of directors meets this tomorrow.
O’Reilly is due back on Monday from his two-week vacation to reclaim his air chair but that is no likely to happen. It will take some time to work out a settlement between the two sides since O’Reilly inked a new contract that would take him though at least 2020.
The O’Reilly Factor has been the most-watched program in the cable news the past 14 years. It also has been a cash cow for Fox News and even with the recent scandal, the show was recording its highest-rated quarter ever. While O’Reilly has been off the air, his show’s ratings have slipped noticeably and don’t expect the network bounce back quickly from his loss.
But it should be noted that 21st Century Fox is a multi-billion-dollar company and while O’Reilly is a big part of Fox News, he is a small part of their over-all portfolio.
They just received approval from the European Union to buy Sky TV in the United Kingdom for an estimated $14.5 billion dollars. But the deal still needs approval of the U.K. before it is final and scandal of any kind is not good for the overall company.
So, come Thursday when 21st Century Fox, looks at the movie, television, newspaper and multimedia empire. Getting rid of O’Reilly, might just be the cost of doing business.