Apr 4, 2017

Fox and O'Reilly are winning the cable war, for now

Fox News Channel has been plagued by recent scandals, but by some measures, it doesn't matter. While every cable channel is seeing a Trump bump in ratings, Fox is doing notably well, earning the best quarter in cable news history.

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Its success can be largely attributed to its flagship program, "The O'Reilly Factor," whose host is a perfect reflection of Fox's unusual situation. While Fox struggled through sexual-harassment lawsuits involving O'Reilly over the past several months, the anchor's prime-time show scored the highest-rated cable news quarter ever, with 4 million viewers.

Other right-leaning news outlets have sustained their audiences, despite battling scandals. Breitbart reached nearly 14 million people in February, which is about average for the site, after its star, Milo Yiannopoulos, resigned over pedophilia comments.

Why it matters: The anti-establishment position these outlets took during the election is still resonating with Trump's conservative base, while the president seems to have lost some support. The latest Gallup poll shows Trump's approval rating continuing to plummet and a Quinnipiac poll released last Wednesday shows President Trump losing support from key parts of his base. The ratings also suggest that consumers are willing to turn a blind eye towards scandal, or are unaware of the behind-the-scenes troubles of their favorite outlets.

What's next: Fox may have had its best quarter ever, but month-over-month, its traffic has been steadily declining, while MSNBC's has been steadily rising. Reports Monday of advertisers pulling their ads from The O'Reilly Factor, combined with month-over-month viewership losses could mean that Fox's big Q1 may not be followed by a stellar Q2.

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