Things are not looking good for Glenn Beck and FNC. Not only have over 200 advertisers left Beck, and the network has been reduced to virtually giving away his ad time, but Fox News viewers are leaving his show in droves. Since January, Beck has lost 33% of his audience, or roughly 1.4 million daily viewers. The worst news for Beck is that this has been a steady erosion, and the viewers are not coming back.
Beck was averaging over 3 million total viewers a week in late 2009. He remained strong after the Doug Hoffman debacle in the NY-23 special House election, so what happened? How did he go from averaging 3 million viewers a day to pulling an all time low for him last week of 1.87 million viewers? Eric Boehlert of Media Matters thinks that the answer can be found in the Eric Massa interview. Beck drew 3.4 million viewers for Massa, and has not come close to touching that number since.
However, even before the Massa disaster, Beck was starting to slide. He had gone from 3 million viewers a day to 2.6 million viewers a day before he became infamous for hosting a former congressman who discussed tickle fights. Since Massa, Beck has lost an additional 400,000 viewers in about six weeks. It is clear that the Massa interview hurt, but there is also more going on here. I think the root cause of Glenn Beck’s demise is much simpler. He decided that he wanted to be taken seriously as a political voice, and stop trying to entertain.
While Beck was unveiling his plan from God on his radio show on April 20, he said something interesting, “When we were, and I’ve never told this story before, when we were starting the TV show, there were things that I did that I wouldn’t do now because I had to be more of an entertainer to get people to go what is this show at five o’clock? I never said anything I didn’t believe, but I may have said things in an entertaining fashion.”
The problem is that Beck’s viewers wanted to be entertained. Without the goofy, borderline train wreck television, his show has become repetitive and boring. You can take any segment and interchange it with another from the last four months and they will look the same. Without the entertainment value, there is nothing special about Glenn Beck’s program. By the way, I think much of the predictability of his program comes from the fact that every episode is scripted and rehearsed. His show contains no possibility for the surprise live moment.
Viewers have discovered that Beck is not everyday must see viewing. In response to his drop in ratings the old shock jock has gone more right wing. Lately God, government conspiracies, and black helicopter new world order stuff have been topics of conversation. Like the boy who cried wolf, Beck could only scream about the demise of America under Obama for so long, before his gloom and doom predictions start to fall on deaf ears. The reality is that none of the horrible things that he predicted under Obama have happened. Republicans may detest Obama, but they realize that the sun is still rising and setting even if he is president.
Glenn Beck is still pulling huge ratings for a 5 pm cable news show, but Fox News has a real problem. According to the new April ratings, Glenn Beck lost 7% of his total viewers, and 6% in the demo. The Fox News network averages 1.92 million viewers, which means that by the numbers Beck has gone from a superstar to having an average FNC show, and I don’t think Beck is done declining yet. What is the network going to do when he becomes a below average Fox News program that has the added hindrance of generating little revenue? If Beck drops to 1.5 total viewers or lower, it would become a smart business decision for Fox to replace him. Glenn Beck enjoyed a meteoric rise, and now he is in the middle of a fast plummet back to earth.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association