For the past three weeks Bill O’Reilly has taken Fridays off, typical of his summer schedule though it isn’t exactly summer yet. The Factor is a host-driven show, and when The Man isn’t there the numbers take a dip. But who’s doing better at holding down the fort?
Heres a breakdown of the last five Fridays in chronological order (courtesy TV By the Numbers):
- 2/13 – Bill O’Reilly – 2,527,000 viewers (431,000 demo)
- 2/20 – Bill O’Reilly – 2,705,000 viewers (403,000 demo)
- 2/27 – Greg Gutfeld – 2,470,000 viewers (354,000 demo)
- 3/6 – Eric Bolling – 2,288,000 viewers (324,000 demo)
- 3/13 – Eric Bolling – 2,131,000 viewers (307,000 demo)
You might conclude that Gutfeld has the edge over Bolling in the sub-host sweepstakes, but the overall cable news viewership also declined over those five weeks. So drawing conclusions would be akin to reading tea leaves. Still, there is someone who’s pouring over these numbers, in far more detailed and accurate form, thinking about the inevitable day when Mr. O’Reilly takes leave of the no-spin zone.
When that happens these numbers will probably not be all that relevant, because neither of these gentlemen will be in the running for the 8:00 pm slot. Look for Megyn Kelly to move up an hour and kick off FNC primetime with a “breaking tonight” jolt of news—live, and with an attitude. Of course Bill O’Reilly isn’t going anywhere for now. He’s certainly not going to leave as his attackers are throwing talk of Salvadoran nuns and combat zones up against the wall. He’ll go on his own terms, and the more Brian Stelter and Rachel Maddow shoot their futile poisoned arrows, the longer Mr. O’Reilly will be “looking out for you.”
Roger Ailes will have a big decision to make when O’Reilly’s last day is in sight. He may reward a rising star with a high-visibility platform just as he did with Megyn Kelly. Or we might see something nobody has even thought of—one of those out-of-the-box surprises (Glenn Beck, The Five, Outnumbered) the Master Programmer is famous for. That’s the X Factor. And it’s likely to be a lot more interesting than another variation on an old cable news theme.