Old News: The Impact of the Aging Viewership on Bill O’Reilly and Fox News




When it rains, it pours.

For Fox News and its month of May, the hits just keep on coming.

As was reported Wednesday, Fox News’ viewership is down 27% this month thanks largely to the network’s insistence upon beating the dead horse that is known as Benghazi. In fact, this number was so low that it actually marked the network’s lowest monthly ratings since before 9/11. As disheartening as this is for Fox News at the moment, what might be even more depressing for the network concerns the demographics of their current audience.

Take, for example, the network’s flagship program The O’Reilly Factor. The program for the past month averaged 313,000 nightly viewers. Despite the fact that this was the lowest amount in over twelve years, the program still more than doubled the viewership of both CNN and MSNBC. However, the interesting statistics involve who exactly was watching The O’Reilly Factor. According to the numbers less than fifteen percent of O’Reilly’s audience fell within the key 25-54 demographic, and the average age of O’Reilly audience was 72 years old.

For Fox News, this represents a huge challenge moving forward. They now face the time honored question: Do we want to make money now or in the future? Because as of now, The O’Reilly Factor remains the network’s breadwinner as it has been for well over a decade. Fox News knows it has a faithful audience for the program and it caters the program to that audience. It’s the reason that Bill O’Reilly can say things on his program Thursday like “income inequality doesn’t exist” and not get absolutely laughed off the stage. Because Bill O’Reilly knows his older, White audience actually believes the things he tells them. They are so gullible and set in their ways that when O’Reilly says something absurd like he did tonight, his audience won’t bother to question him.

This strategy works great for the advertising dollars for Fox News. However, a problem arises in that 25-54 demographic where only 15% of O’Reilly’s audience lies. The lower end of this demographic are your millennials and they are the ones who are at an age where they are starting to have families of their own. If only 3 out of every 20 viewers of The O’Reilly Factor are in this age bracket, that means that even less than that are millennials. It is more than likely that the percentage of millennials that watch the program might very well be close to 5% of the entire viewing audience. That 5% will not be enough to help Fox News spread its conservative message to independents as election season approaches.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes built Fox News to establish a Conservative mouthpiece for the Republican Party during the presidency of Bill Clinton. It’s no coincidence that the network was launched a month before Clinton was re-elected. Murdoch and Ailes knew that Clinton was turning around the economy from a recession and how, up until that point, had kept the United States out of any major foreign entanglements. When Clinton beat Bob Dole handily to win a second term, Murdoch and Ailes knew they needed the network to help stem the tide of a popular Democratic president, presiding over what would become an efficient and robust economy.

However, since that time, the network has continued to push its conservative agenda on the rest of the country. It has worked wonders for ratings, but it now reaches a breaking point of what to do moving forward. The Fox News audience continues to get older and older. However, is it that audience that tunes in religiously and helps the network keep raking in its advertising dollars. Meanwhile, it is the younger audience that doesn’t tune in as often and yet it is they who represent the next generation. They are the ones who Fox News most needs and yet they are the ones that don’t seem interested in what Fox News has to say.

As America continues to become more and more progressive, Fox News has painted itself into a corner. For nearly twenty years, they have been “fair and balanced” in giving the Republican Party a platform to campaign and to give a voice to their Conservative worldview. They have catered to their audience, but now their audience no longer represents traditional America. People in this country realize things like income inequality exist, and for every time that Bill O’Reilly says it doesn’t, it just makes the average independent voter shake his or her head in disbelief. Views like that may play great for the over 70 crowd, but for the vast majority of educated voters today, that kind of disconnected worldview only serves to illustrate just how out of touch Republicans are with major problems in the country today.

For Fox News, it is a situation that offers no easy solution.

31 Replies to “Old News: The Impact of the Aging Viewership on Bill O’Reilly and Fox News”

  1. If O’s average viewer is 72, the average life expectancy is around 75. So I would guess that big O will be out of business in 3 years more or less. Eh, there’s always openings for carnival barkers.

  2. Obviously Roger Ailes has worked out a pretty cushy contractual agreement with every nursing home in America to keep those boob toobs tuned in to Fox cable 24/7.

  3. Who’s going to watch Fox “News” when all their scared, old, white, male viewers die? As it is, they’ve got one foot in the ground, so I don’t see how they are going to be able to sustain their audience numbers. Nobody under the age of 50 takes them seriously. Good luck to them because they’re going to need it. Fox “News” is a JOKE.

  4. how sad. these viewers, who already have one foot in the grave because of physical and mental heath issues, spend their golden years listening to fox news being frightened, afraid to leave their homes, and for the mentally challenged, more mentally disturbed.
    I do not want to live my life that way when I reach that age group. that’s the time to get the most out of what is left of your life if possible. not becoming depressed and regressing.

  5. That’s exactly right, Karen. Have a good look around Walmart’s auto center waiting room. They overstate the capacity of that room by nearly 50% and then they can add those empty seats as viewers to the ratings and boast about how popular they are.

    Same tactic the GOP use to get a book by Palin or any other RWer (that’s published by Murdoch’s publishing company, HarperCollins that is rumored to merge with Simon&Schuster) to the top of the NYT’s bestseller list – buying up tons of books to give away at GOP conventions and such while pushing a book that nobody reads.

  6. How one chooses to live their life when older is a personal choice. No one has to go through life being in fear. All one has to do is choose to not be close minded. Far be it from what others say being close minded and ignorant is a personal choice. Those who are gain the benefits that they worked hard to earn. Most refused to listen to members of their family, neighbors and numerous forms of information sharing outlets. In plain English, they made a life choice to be exactly what they are.

  7. I’d love to see the republican party completely destroyed, should of been gone after 1929 but it got to remain to do The U.S. more damage.

  8. I dislike Bill O’reilly. I hate the sight of his face and I certainly never watch his shitty show. I haven’t read any of his crappy books. I couldn’t give a fuck if
    there are younger hosts on other shows.

    I won’t watch Fox News as news because i know that they are not news, only noise.

    As a 35 year old woman, I don’t consider any conservative views before I vote or form my own opinion. I don’t give a shit if gay people get married, I think the more the merrier. I recycle, and I’m very concerned about climate change. I am appalled that the schools are constantly being fucked with to satisfy some weird progress metrics that doesnt’ take into consideration that people learn differently. I am appalled that in a country as rich as this one that there are so many homeless people and they don’t have enough to eat. I’m glad that Native Americans are getting rich from casinos. I want to see recycling bins and solar panels on every house in my city, county and state.

  9. I know people who watch faux news. I find it odd that they were once normal, and they became increasingly angry and unhappy, obsessing about Obama. You can’t even have a conversation with these people anymore because you could be talking about the weather and they will throw out….Benghazi or I hate Obama! Then off they go in crazy land…..all you can do is just look at them and realize, you are one selfish person!

  10. I believe that is the intended goal of FOX. To scare people. And they are experts at it. I wonder how many 72 year olds actually can stay awake through an O’Reilly show. Not many, I bet.

  11. Also, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, most hospital emergency rooms, and anyplace else that has a TV in their waiting rooms. The reason, of course, is that FauxSpews is on basic cable, while CNN and MSNBC are on the premium pay tiers. Faux is free noise.

  12. To his audience,
    O’reilly is the young whipper-snapper.
    He’s just the coolest guy they know.
    He uses the vernacular of the 50’s,
    calling everyone by their last name,
    calling news, for example, that IRS
    “thing” & of course name calling like “pinhead” etc. to help them to relate
    to him. Shamelessly peddling his books,
    premium memberships, & “Factor” junk,
    as great gifts for the family, he fulfills his goal to make money, PERIOD.
    In reality, he is just a BULLY who
    no one but his ‘gang’ can stand.
    Personally, I can’t stomach the sight of him.

  13. One thing to remember is Fox is the only conservative voice on TV, so all the conservatives watch that one network, whereas the rest of the viewers are spread out over several different sources.

  14. I live in the deep red state of Idaho, and for over 10 years I have volunteered at one of my state’s nursing homes for veterans.

    There are approx. 160 residents, and as you can imagine they are mostly elderly white men. Every resident has a wall- mounted flat screen that gets basic cable in his room, and every common area has a huge flat screen.

    In all these years I have never seen a resident watching FOX News, and believe me I have been paying attention. So who actually is watching FOX?

  15. And there’s quite a few of us over 50 who likewise think that Fox (non-)News is a joke, and truly needs to be removed from the airwaves. The same is true for Limbaugh, Beck, Robertson, et al.

  16. Jill, thanks for that link. Makes me sick the lengths people will go to manipulate the unknowing victim. But some are willing participates….

  17. Bills audience’s IQ and age average the same 72; old people afraid of different looking people; yelling at the neighbor kids to get off their lawn.

  18. That’s exactly the tactics of the big publishers to game the NYT best seller list. Buy up a flip ton of them and give them away or sell them at “Books by the ton” and other heavy discount warehouses and dollar stores.

  19. Finally ,someone I agree with.I think the people on the right would love to take the vote away from women,and people of color.We really are undesireable as far as they are concerned.

  20. It should be noted that Fox’s rating were so high for a while all the other networks started to model their programs after Fox. CNN is like Fox light with Newt Gingrich etc. Meet the Press has David Gregory.
    Even MSNBC has Joe Scarborough. Right wing propaganda pusher.
    Hopefully these stations will see the error and rectify it. Until then it’s mostly BBC and PBS for me.

  21. This is why the GOP did not disappear.
    August 23, 1971
    The Powell Memo was the blueprint for the GOP’s successful strategy.
    The Powell Memo came up with the plan, the blueprint. Based on the ideas presented in the Powell Memo, the Republican party created think tanks responsible for dispersing misleading information with a false cloak of authenticity. The Heritage Foundation is a classic example of this. They took control of the airwaves to disperse misleading information (e.g., talk radio, Fox News, CNBC, etc.). A relenting Chamber of Commerce uses corporate monies to bully policy and politicians that squeeze the masses (e.g., support for free trade agreements, outsourcing etc.).
    They infiltrated college campuses with directed research for planned outcomes as detailed in the Powell Memo. The GOP infiltrated the elementary and secondary schools’ textbook evaluation process to attempt Right Wing indoctrination…

  22. I bet those old people fit the definition of old white men. Many of them still yearning for the days when eg inter-racial marrriage was still banned in 16 of once 41 states, etc

    just google “fox news is racist channel”

  23. You bet they are a bunch of old white men. (although I do know repub women too) I am one of those Baby Boomers who have never voted repub and never will. I abhor repubs. Not all of us are RWNJs.

  24. My job has me travel a lot to many states and I have noticed over time a common occurrence. Fox news is on everywhere from department stores to chain restaurants to hospital emergency rooms. I mean Fox news is on every frigging where there is a TV on for public viewing regardless if anyone is actually watching. Even an establishment that draws a younger hipper crowd seems to have Fox news channel on in the background. Makes you wonder if someone is being paid off to keep their TV sets on Fox news channel on a nationwide basis.

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