The biggest beneficiary of the ejection of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News just might be network — and political — rival Rachel Maddow. She was already beginning to edge past No. 1 Fox in her 9 p.m. slot against Tucker Carlson, and now she could be poised to become the heavy hitter of the primetime news shows.
MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last month nosed past Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” among 25- to 54-year-old viewers, which determines advertising rates, according to CNN. She was on track to do it again this month. Maddow was already pulling in the highest ratings of her nine-year stint at MSNBC in February, averaging 2.3 million viewers per episode.
Now Carlson will be bumped down to 8 p.m. to take O’Reilly’s spot and Fox’s 5 p.m. opinion talk show “The Five” moves to 9 p.m. to replace Carlson.
It’s unclear what will happen with the new line up — and if there will be any permanent fallout for Fox after scores of advertisers fled in the wake of revelations that millions of dollars had been paid in settlements to women who accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment.
But this could be Maddow’s time to shine — not only because of Fox scrambling after the O’Reilly scandal, but also because viewers appear to be hungry for her brand of taking down President Donald Trump. Her programs on the Trump team’s Russia connections and demanding the president releases his taxes have drawn particularly high ratings. The show revealing Trump’s 2005 taxes drew 4.1 million viewers on March 14, and was the highest rated show on cable that day.
“There’s a reason Rachel is beating Fox and CNN,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told CNN Money. “She’s a talented storyteller who’s helping her audience cut through all the confusion coming out of Washington. She’s connecting dots in ways no one else is.”
Cable news viewers’ fascination with Trump has given Fox, MSNBC and CNN all big boosts in ratings. But overall, Fox is way ahead of the pack, averaging about 2.8 million viewers during primetime, followed by MSNBC with an average 1.4 million viewers, and CNN with 1.2 million.