AD­VER­TIS­ING BOY­COTT SINKS O’REILLY AT FOX

An­a­lysts say back­lash more costly than the $ 13M in set­tle­ments

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Marco della Cava

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

RICHARD DREW, AP

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.

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