In today’s New York Times, David Carr explores the stunning rise and slow fall of Glenn Beck at Fox News.
Mr. Beck, a conservative Jeremiah and talk-radio phenomenon, burst into television prominence in 2009 by taking the forsaken 5 p.m. slot on Fox News and turning it into a juggernaut. A conjurer of conspiracies who spotted sedition everywhere he looked, Mr. Beck struck a big chord and ended up on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and held rallies all over the country that were mobbed with acolytes. He achieved unheard-of ratings, swamped the competition and at times seemed to threaten the dominion of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox.
But since the beginning of the year, Beck has been down the most of any FNC show. In February, he dropped -26% in total viewers (2.084M v. 2.833M) and -32% in the A254-54 demo (513K v. 753K). In January the drop was more striking: down -40% in total viewers (1.786M v. 2.955M) and down -50% in younger viewers (406K v. 806K). The show is now on par with with its numbers at launch. In Feb. 2009, his first full month on the air, Beck drew 2.173M total viewers and 512K A25-54 viewers.
He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent
— that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.
On the other side, people who work for Mr. Beck point out that he could live without Fox News. Unlike some other cable hosts, Mr. Beck has a huge multiplatform presence… Forbes estimated that his company, Mercury Radio Arts, had more than $30 million in revenue.
In a profile two years ago this month, the NYT’s Bill Carter & Brian Stelter wrote: “With a mix of moral lessons, outrage and an apocalyptic view of the future, Mr. Beck, a longtime radio host who jumped to Fox from CNN’s Headline News channel this year, is capturing the feelings of an alienated class of Americans.”
So what happened? Carr:
How could a breakup between Mr. Beck and Fox News — a bond that seemed made in pre-Apocalyptic heaven — come to pass? They were never great friends to start with: Mr. Beck came to Fox with a huge radio show and had been on CNN Headline News, so he did not owe his entire career to Fox and frequently went off-message. The sniping between Fox News executives and Mr. Beck’s team began soon after he went on the air in 2009.