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Five takeaways from the Fox News premiere

Fox News made major changes to its nightly lineup on Monday, shifting some of its top pundits to new time slots and signaling the start of a new era in primetime for the network.

The changes, which take effect next month, offer clues about the conservative media giant’s strategy ahead of next year’s GOP presidential primaries and election.

The shakeup also comes at a time of turmoil in the cable news business overall and as Fox specifically deals with the fallout from a slew of legal headaches and controversies it has faced over its coverage of the 2020 election.

Here are five takeaways.

Jesse Watters sees his star rise even further on Fox

Jesse Watters, who started at Fox’s 8pm as a correspondent for Bill O’Reilly’s show, will take over primetime from Tucker Carlson. This gives him the keys to what, in recent years, has been classified as the most watched night time of the chain.

Carlson was fired by the network last month and has since launched a version of his popular Fox show on Twitter. Watters was given his own show at 7pm last January and has been a ratings success for Fox, consistently outperforming other cable channels in that time slot.

Like Carlson, Watters has been no stranger to controversy during his tenure at Fox.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former presidential medical adviser, called for Watters to be fired a month before the start of his one-on-one show after the host suggested activists ambush Fauci and deliver a rhetorical “kill shot” to its credibility in the form of questions about a Chinese lab links to the origins of the coronavirus.

“The only thing I’ve done over the course of these two years is encourage people to practice good public health practices: get vaccinated, be careful in public settings, wear a mask,” said Fauci, who has been public about the death threats he has received. “And because of that, you got some guy who says people should shoot me, to ambush me?”

Fox defended its host at the time, saying his comments had been taken out of context.

“From watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it is more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor to ask Dr. Fauci pointed questions about gain-of-function research and his words have been completely twisted. context,” the statement says.

It was a key moment in Watters’ rise to Fox, as the network’s defense of his comments showed he was investing in one of the youngest and most popular members of its roster.

Monday’s lineup shows that Watters, who had been widely seen as the odds-on favorite to take over from Carlson, has solidified himself as the one the network is now pinning its hopes on for a key post.

Gutfeld brings his schtick to prime time

Greg Gutfeld has been another of Fox’s rising talents for months, and now he has the chance to bring his comedic flair to prime time.

The network launched a self-titled Late Night comedy show for Gutfeld at 11:00 PM in 2021, and the conservative pundit has responded by outperforming Late Night shows on the major broadcast networks for several consecutive weeks.

Fox’s experiment with Gutfeld paying off shows that there is an appetite for conservative comedy among its audience and that the network sees it as a growth area it can capitalize on.

The move to prime time is also a major milestone for Gutfeld, another co-anchor of “The Five,” who has worked from weekend anchor and comedian to leading pundit now at the center of the daily schedule of Fox during its primetime hours.

But the lights are brighter in primetime, and Fox is betting that Gutfeld’s style will land well in host Laura Ingraham’s former time slot, as it looks to maintain its outsized viewership share an hour earlier that the latest local news is broadcast on broadcast networks.

Hannity, Ingraham remain Fox mainstays

Sean Hannity and Ingraham are two of Fox’s longest-running hosts, and while Hannity stays in his 9 p.m. time slot, Ingraham’s show runs three hours from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. :00

Ingraham’s Washington show focusing on politics and current events will replace Watters, who was given her first one-man weekday show after anchor Martha MacCallum’s newscast moved to mid-afternoon.

Fox, which chose to air Ingraham’s conservative commentary at 7 p.m., shows it is committed to opinion-based programming at this time and is now using one of his household names to start, rather than close, its nightly expert programming.

Replacing Watters at 7 p.m. could benefit Ingraham, who will now follow the network’s most-watched newscast at 6 p.m. and have the advantage of reacting to the day’s top news stories three hours earlier each weeknight.

Keeping Hannity and Ingraham in the prime-time mix also suggests Fox would rather bet on horses it knows can deliver ratings, rather than look outside its ranks to fill key vacancies and stay atop the news business. for ultra-competitive cable.

Pro-Trump talk is welcome in prime time on Fox

Keeping Hannity and Ingraham on Fox’s prime-time shows doesn’t shy away from pro-Trump commentary, as some right-wing critics have suggested in recent months.

Text messages from Hannity and Ingraham made public as part of the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot showed the two hosts calling on former President Trump’s aides to fire the mob, with Ingraham at one point going writing that the show was “hurting us all”. .”

The episode was a clear window into the mutually beneficial relationship between Trump, an avid cable news watcher, and the conservative media figures who have long supported him.

Watters and Gutfeld, meanwhile, have similarly used pro-Trump comments to boost their credibility with Fox’s conservative audience, much of which remains loyal to the former president.

As the 2024 GOP primary heats up, the meeting of the four pundits suggests it’s unlikely viewers can expect to see a pivot away from Trump to Fox in prime time anytime soon.

Gutfeld, Watters does represent some kind of change

Fox has always relied on prime-time pundits who appeal to conservative audiences.

But by tapping Gutfeld and Watters for prime-time shows, Fox News is leaning into the infotainment business by considering the voices of the two rising conservative media stars.

Neither Gutfeld nor Watters are cut from the same kind of blanket as Carlson or Hannity.

While Gutfeld has used explicit jokes to grow his audience, Watters has more often relied on quirky and unorthodox segments to spark shock, awe and sometimes controversy during his late-night show.

The pair’s rise also comes as Fox makes a push into streaming entertainment programming, airing stand-up specials featuring controversial comedians like Roseanne Barr and Rob Schneider on its “Fox Nation” platform.

As Americans’ news consumption habits change and public opinion polls show that more and more people are tired of partisan politics, Fox is trying to carve out a path in the political entertainment space. as a recognition that the world in which it operates is changing rapidly.

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