More Advertisers Pull Their Ads from Fox News’ O’Reilly Show

Fox News is facing what appears to be a growing advertiser boycott of its top-rated show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” after news broke that host Bill O’Reilly was the subject of five sexual-harassment cases launched by former staff.

Mercedes-Benz pulled its ads from the Fox News show on Monday as a result of the allegations, and two other major automotive brands announced similar moves on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Mercedes said Monday that because of the “disturbing allegations” against the Fox News host, the luxury car maker had decided that The O’Reilly Factor was not “a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”

Hyundai told CNN that while it didn’t currently have ads running on the show, it had taken steps to ensure that future ads wouldn’t appear there. And on Tuesday, BMW announced it would also be removing its ads from the program.

A New York Times report published on the weekend found that Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox and Bill O’Reilly paid out a total of $13 million to settle harassment cases launched by five women since 2002.

The money was paid “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations” against O’Reilly, the Times report said. The Fox News host has said that the accusations are untrue, but neither he nor 21st Century Fox have denied making the payments.

“We had advertising running on The O’Reilly Factor, and it has been reassigned,” Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Donna Boland told CNN. “Given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment.”

Hyundai said it would not run ads that were planned for the show because of the “recent and disturbing allegations,” and that it would continue to “monitor and evaluate the situation” as it planned future advertising decisions.

Another car maker, Lexus, told CNN: “We take our duties as a responsible advertiser seriously, and seek to partner with organizations who share our company culture and philosophy of respect for all people. We will continue to monitor the situation and will take any appropriate action.”

Unless it grows significantly, however, the advertiser boycott is unlikely to make a dent in the show’s profitability. According to recent estimates, The O’Reilly Factor generated almost half a billion dollars in ad revenue between 2014 and 2016.

This helps explain why Fox News recently extended O’Reilly’s contract (which was set to expire this year) despite the multiple allegations against him. According to the New York Times, the Fox host makes about $18 million per year.

Industry insiders say while major brands may pull their ads from specific shows that are caught up in controversy, they usually return once the public furor has died down, especially if those shows have high ratings.

So far, multiple sexual-harassment cases involving the network don’t seem to have put much of a dent in its viewer numbers. In addition to the O’Reilly allegations, Fox has also been dealing with the fallout from harassment allegations involving former chairman Roger Ailes, who left the network last year.

The U.S. Attorneys Office is reportedly investigating whether Fox News properly disclosed the payments it made to settle cases launched against Ailes over the years.

Just last week, numbers from audience-measurement firm Nielsen Research showed that O’Reilly pulled in more viewers than any other cable news program in history. That helped Fox News clinch the top spot for most-watched cable news network for the 61st quarter in a row. The network even beat out non-news programming such as ESPN.

On Monday, Fox News sent a memo to employees telling them to report any inappropriate behavior to the human resources department or network executives. The network’s new head of human resources said he wanted to reiterate this message “in light of some of the accounts published over the last few days.”

TV Watching Is in Decline, But News Consumption Is Booming

The election of Donald Trump as president may be having a questionable effect on the economic and political outlook for the U.S., but it has been a considerable shot in the arm for the TV news business, according to new numbers from Nielsen.

Adults over 18 watched over 27 billion minutes of national cable-TV news programming per week last year. That’s almost 45% more than they watched in 2015, according to Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report, which looks at consumption patterns for cable as well as smartphones and desktop computers.

While cable TV saw the largest jump, Nielsen said that news consumption across all media — including radio, traditional broadcast TV and smartphones — rose by 18% compared with a year earlier, to 73.5 billion minutes per week.

Adult news consumers spent close to 6.5 hours a week watching national cable TV news last year, the report found. That’s an increase of almost an hour and a half from the previous year, and almost two hours more than they watched during the last presidential election cycle in 2012.

The election campaign boosted news consumption significantly, the firm said, along with other major news events such as the “Brexit” vote in the UK, the war in Syria, the Zika virus and a number of terrorist attacks and news about refugees.

Nielsen also looked at how news consumption is trending in 2017. “Spoiler alert: the year is starting with even more news viewing/listening/reading than the 2016 average,” said Glenn Enoch, senior VP of audience insights at Nielsen.

For the month of January, the average U.S. viewer spent two hours and 11 minutes watching national cable news every week, Nielsen said. That’s an increase of about 20 minutes from the average consumption period for last year.

Last week, Fox News and CNN both reported their highest viewership numbers in over a decade. Fox in particular had the best performance of any 24-hour cable news network ever, and even beat out regular cable networks such as ESPN.

The Nielsen report also notes, however, that cable-TV news is still overwhelmingly dominated by older audiences. For people over 50 years of age, cable TV news makes up more than 11.5% of their TV viewing, but it only accounts for about 2.5% of the TV watching of those between 18 and 35.

And while news consumption got a boost from the election, the Nielsen figures show that cable TV watching as a whole is still in decline. People spent an average of 142 hours and 35 minutes every month watching live TV as well as recorded or time-shifted TV in the fourth quarter of last year, Nielsen said.

That number is about five hours less than the firm’s audience numbers from the previous year. Older audiences between 50 and 64 watched almost 193 hours of TV a month, more than twice the amount watched by those between 18 and 24.