“The O’Reilly Factor,” the most popular show on cable news, has turned from moneymaker to potential liability as companies have been pulling their ads in the wake of host Bill O’Reilly’s possible involvement in a number of sexual harassment claims. The New York Times on Saturday reported that Fox News and O’Reilly paid five women a total of $13 million to not pursue sexual harassment litigation against the host.
Following the New York Times investigation, 32 advertisers have so far withdrawn from the top-rated talk show.
Notable among the companies pulling ads are several car manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, and Subaru. Personal finance site Credit Karma, drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, pet food company Ainsworth, men’s shirt seller Untuckit, and online marketing firm Constant Contact are also among companies pulling advertising from the show.
Last summer, company founder and CEO of 20 years Roger Ailes resigned in the face of a wave of sexual harassment allegations. Ailes’ resignation came barely a month after former anchor Gretchen Carlson came forward, claiming Ailes had threatened to fire her unless she agreed to have sex with him.
After Carlson filed suit, 25 additional current and former employees came forward. The group included Megyn Kelly, one of the Fox News’ most popular anchors, who left the network for NBC.
Ailes is widely regarded as the driving visionary force behind Fox’s current format and political tone that — even as it has garnered its share of criticism — has helped popularize the network. Ailes has recognized the value and impact of politically incendiary shows like “The O’Reilly Factor.” When the former Fox chief came under fire, O’Reilly came to Ailes’ defense.
Now, despite support from President Donald Trump, it appears the host may meet the same fate as his former boss.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact the potential loss of “The O’Reilly Factor” could have on the network. In the first quarter of this year, the show pulled in an average of 4 million nightly viewers, its highest viewership totals of all time, breaking the record for a network news program.
Ad spending data came from Advertising Age, an advertising industry observer. All spending figures are for 2015.