When "Glenn Beck" was riding high in the ratings, the program that liberals love to hate appeared to be nearly bulletproof. Witness 2009, when the show suffered an exodus of major advertisers after Beck described President Obama as "racist." Despite the loss of blue-chip sponsors, Fox News stood by its man. Why? Ratings for the program continued to soar, and big-name marketers plunked their money on other Fox News shows.
But almost two years later, the program seems to have become more vulnerable. Fox News is considering breaking up with Beck when his contract ends in December, according to a story in The New York Times. Even though the program still shows a hefty lead over its 5 p.m. competitors on CNN and MSNBC, "Glenn Beck" has shed almost 1 million viewers from a year earlier, according to data from Nielsen.
Glenn Beck "is not bringing in the blue-chip advertisers," notes Brad Adgate, the director of research for Horizon Media. "He's lost exactly one-third of his audience. That's a cause for concern at Fox News."
Big Advertisers Aren't Backing Beck
Back when Beck's show was skyrocketing in the ratings, his anemic list of advertisers didn't worry Fox News. But the "Glenn Beck" advertisers -- or lack of of them -- are becoming more of an issue as the show hemorrhages viewers. TiVo has provided data to DailyFinance that illustrates the big divide between Beck's advertisers and those backing CNN's "The Situation Room" and MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews."
During the last week of February, Beck's show attracted 39 advertisers, ranging from his major sponsor, Goldline.com, which has come under fire for its marketing and sales practices, to decidedly B-list advertisers such as SeniorPeopleMeet.com, a dating site for seniors.
Advertisers for Beck's more liberal rivals on CNN and MSBNC are both more plentiful and better pedigreed, despite the programs' considerably smaller audiences. "The Situation Room" on CNN booked ads from more than 100 advertisers during the last week in February, while "Hardball" attracted 58 advertisers during the same period, according to Tivo. And the shows attract ads from some of the biggest U.S. consumer brands, including Procter & Gamble and Microsoft.
Targeting the Senior Set
All three shows tend to attract an older audience, with their average viewing age hovering in the mid-60s. But not all senior-targeted advertisers are created equal. Beck's program draws ads such as cosmetic surgery practice Lifestyle Lift, while CNN's "Situation Room" has attracted a list of advertisers including Mercerdes Benz 's E-class of luxury cars and Procter & Gamble's (PG) over-the-counter Prilosec heart-burn medication.
Given that Andrew Napolitano, Beck's vacation fill-in, maintained the show's ratings when Beck was out earlier this month, it doesn't take a programming genius to put the pieces together. Sure, if Beck leaves Fox News, he might take Goldline with him. But Fox News, eying the A-list advertisers at "The Situation Room," might be willing to take that chance.