ADVERTISING BOYCOTT SINKS O’REILLY AT FOX
Analysts say backlash more costly than the $ 13M in settlements
In the end, Fox News star Bill O’Reilly was undone by the herd of advertisers that stampeded for the exits.
Although over the years Fox and O’Reilly paid $ 13 million to settle sexual harassment accusations from a number of women, according to a New York Times investigation, the tipping point that led to Wednesday’s firing of the talk- show host was caused by an exodus of brand names that feared a consumer backlash.
“I’ve always asked: ‘ How many women have to come forward for one woman to be believed,’ but I guess there’s no substitute for a loss in advertising dollars,” says attorney Gloria Allred, whose practice specializes in sexual ha- rassment cases.
“Every company hit with these suits has to do a public relations, economic and brand calculation,” says Allred. “Follow the money and you understand why businesses make the decisions they do.”
Investors don’t seem to be penalizing Fox’s parent company for dismissing its controversial money- maker. 21st Century Fox stock was down 0.8% and remained flat in after- hours trading. Some analysts expect that cutting the cord with O’Reilly will prove in the company’s best interest.
“Investors don’t like uncertainly or distraction,” says Tuna Amobi, equity analyst with CFRA Research. “The market reaction to this is muted because there’s a sense this won’t be earthshattering.”
Amobi estimates that O’Reilly’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, which continued to enjoy high ratings even in past weeks, brought in roughly $ 150 million in advertising last year, a small fraction of the $ 7 billion Fox News raked in. “It’s a drop in the bucket for them,” he says.
The bigger liability, Amobi says, would have been keeping O’Reilly after a very public dismissal of Fox News boss Roger Ailes after he was hit with charges of sexual discrimination by Megyn Kelly and other female Fox anchors and contributors. “It was no longer just about finances, it was reputation,” he says, noting that more than 60 big brands abandoned O’Reilly’s show in the wake of the scandal.
Besides being able to win back some of those advertisers, such as Mercedes- Benz and Coldwell Banker, an O’Reilly- free Fox could improve its chances of finally taking over British cable giant Sky.
“Follow the money and you understand why businesses make the decisions they do.”
Gloria Allred, attorney for Summer Zervos, who has accused President Trump of defamation, and dozens of women suing comedian Bill Cosby
The abrupt dismissal Wednesday of host Bill O’Reilly ends the Fox News star’s 21 years at the helm of The O’Reilly Factor.