Celebrate the Facts!
Network news Infotainment, more appropriately known as Hate, Inc., is the metaphoric unindicted co-conspirator in the political division in the United States. Fox News wears the collar as the arch-villain, but the other networks are as despicable and predictable. As predicted in an earlier investigation, the Infotainment industry is in trouble as the glory years of Donald Trump fade. An analysis of the third-quarter 2021 results confirms that prediction and provides intriguing thoughts about the future
Fox News is doing a victory lap in its 25th anniversary with a monstrous win as it trounced its cable competition in total third-quarter ratings compiled by Nielsen, with an average total prime time audience of about 2.4 million viewers, well ahead of MSNBC with about 1.3 million, and CNN with about 0.8 million. All three networks were down from the third quarter of 2020, with Fox News dropping 32% in prime time, the smallest decline overall, compared to MSNBC, down 40%, and CNN down 46%.
The language of ratings is basic. Nielsen is a national firm that has long-rated television viewership and many other consumer items, primarily to benchmark for pricing advertising. Viewers is a term often used, and the meaning of viewers is the average number of people watching a program in any given minute while it airs. Infotainment is media content intended to both entertain and inform, but in its current iteration, Infotainment inflames more than reports. It is impossible to imagine a person tuning into both The Rachel Maddow Show and The Ingraham Angle. Both liberal conservative Infotainment are echo chambers that reinforce viewpoints and do not challenge them.
For Fox, the third quarter win marks 79 straight quarters as the most-watched network in cable news among total viewers, and the seventh quarter in a row, Fox was the number one network. But all the networks are seeing a decline in viewers as the Infotainment salad days of the Trump administration, with its daily scandals and social affronts providing hellishly good stories for audiences, are over, and the networks are struggling in the doldrums of the Biden administration.
Network news is about money, not news, and as ratings decline, revenues decline. In the era of shareholder value mantras, shareholders demand their value, so changes are coming, although they are difficult to predict.
The highest-rated shows on cable news in total average viewers for the third quarter were:
In the most lucrative 25- to 54-year-old demographic, the top 5 in average viewers were all on Fox:
Among the coveted and lucrative demographic of viewers of ages 25- to 54-years-old, Fox finished first with an average prime time audience of 377,000 viewers, down 37% from the same quarter one year ago, followed by CNN with an average of 188,000, and down the most of the cable news networks at 52%, and them MSNBC with an average of 151,000 viewers, down 51%.
The ascendency of The Five is intriguing. Fox broadcasts The Five at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, opposite The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN, and MSNBC’s two-hour program Deadline: White House on MSNBC starting at 4:00 p.m. The Five overpowers its competition, seemingly conceded by MSNBC, although Jake Tapper appears to be more than adept at CNN. The Five has accounted for about 5% of all the ad spending on Fox News Channel in 2021. In 2020, The Five generated about $48 million in advertising, compared with nearly $33 million in 2019. Viewers are up, so revenue is up.
The programming concept for The Five follows the playbook for formula panel programs going back to the 1960s. Five panelists kick around the news of the day and parrot conservative talking points except for the one liberal panelist, who is essentially a punching bag paid to lose the argument. The incumbent liberal designated loser Juan Williams announced his resignation in May 2021, and Fox has since filled the spot with a series of liberal has-beens or never-wases. However, Fox kept Williams as a senior political analyst, likely meaning they had tired of him and looked for a livelier presence.
Fox has been searching for a permanent replacement but finding the right fit can be difficult. The qualifications appear to be willing to sacrifice any future hopes at reputation, be neither too bright nor informed or energetic, and parrot standard liberal lines poorly. Although the network has been auditioning several candidates, such people are difficult to find, and indeed, the money will lure a liberal bench player who desires some coins in their bank account.
The Five features a rotating cast of co-hosts but likes to feature Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, and Jesse Watters. Dana Perino, age 48, who was the 26th White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush from late 2007 to early 2009, is an executive with Random House, and has the most potent political background. Greg Gutfeld, age 57, has fewer formal credentials and is also the late-night talk show Gutfeld! Jesse Waters’, age 43, political credentials are even sparer as his biggest claim to previous fame were his frequent appearances on the Fox Infotainment program The O'Reilly Factor.
Perino appears on the show tarted up in traditional Fox heavy makeup and tight, short skirts and high heels wardrobe style, as are all the other female panelists who appear on the show. A ‘gentleman’s club’ would demand such apparel. One might surmise that with the end of the Roger Ailes era at Fox, those archaic and iconic female looks might have toned down, but they remain in place. Other leading networks provide similar visual styles.
The Five panelists provide information about a news event, then banter about the topic in a contrived witty manner, mock the liberals, and overwhelm the nominally liberal panelist, often ending in a shouting match. The seeming intent is to hypercharge conservative viewers with emotional invective as they imagine a debate where they ‘own the libs’ with talking points provided by The Five.
Trailing is a sampling of recent storylines from The Five from the past 10 days:
The development of The Five is exciting as the remainder of the results seem predictable in the Biden era presidency that resembles the Eisenhower administration in its absolute lack of controversy, intrigue, or scandal. However, the Five does provide some flare and debate less predictably than Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson, which could be an attraction.
Analysis of the third quarter results drive one to some intriguing questions:
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.