Advertisers flee Bill O’Reilly’s show but impact unclear

NEW YORK (AP) — More advertisers fled Bill O’Reilly’s show on Wednesday, with drugmaker Pfizer and real estate company Coldwell Banker among the latest to distance themselves.

The snowball effect began Monday after a weekend report in The New York Times that O’Reilly and his employer paid five women $13 million to settle harassment or other allegations of inappropriate conduct by Fox’s top star.

As of Wednesday, a total of about 20 advertisers — from Mercedes Benz to Allstate — had confirmed pulling out. But while the advertisers’ moves may send a strong signal to consumers, so far, it is unclear whether there will be any long-term negative impact on either Fox News or “The O’Reilly Factor.”


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“Advertisers are very risk averse,” said Larry Chiagouris, a Pace University marketing professor. “When advertisers see the possibility of scandal, they take the easy way out — which can be spun as the ‘high road.’ It’s easy for them to move their money somewhere else.”

Fox News has said that advertisers who pulled their ads would be directed to the network’s other programs — so that probably means they’ll just move to other shows like “Hannity,” or “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

That makes their move “less impactful” to Fox than if an advertiser moved all of its ad dollars to rival station MSNBC, for example, Chiagouris said.

“There are only downsides for an advertiser connected with someone who is facing these sorts of charges,” added Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimple Consulting. “There’s no upside and there are plenty of places put ads. It’s a buyer’s market.”

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So far the flap hasn’t reached the proportions of Glenn Beck, the conservative political commentator who hosted a show on Fox News until he was dropped in 2011 after his increasingly strident stances made him unattractive to advertisers.

O’Reilly, by contrast, is Fox News’ top revenue producer, according to research firm Kantar Media, bringing in over $178 million in ad dollars in 2015 and $118.6 million in the first nine months of 2016.

Chiagouris predicts that while a bevy of advertisers are dropping out of the show, they’ll just be replaced by other advertisers who can negotiate for a better ad deal.

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“For interim period, maybe as much as a year, that show will not generate as much in the way of profits for Fox as it did before,” he said. “But it will gradually come back to where it was before because he is so popular,” — as long as there are no other scandalous developments, he said.


Some advertisers are sticking around. Angie’s List spokeswoman Cheryl Reed said the company has a contract with Fox that doesn’t specify which Fox program its ads will air on, but the company, which offers crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses, has no plans to change its ad buy.

“The advertising strategy we have long used at Angie’s List is meant to reach as many people as possible with news that our service exists and is available to them,” she said in a statement. “We place ads across a wide spectrum of venues intending to reach as many viewers/listeners/ readers as possible without taking a position on the viewpoints of the venues themselves.”

She added that the company trusts its members “to make their own media consumption decisions.”