After months of media speculation, Glenn Beck and Fox News have agreed to break up. They’ll still see each other, of course, since they’ll be cooperating on a “variety of television projects … as well as content for other platforms,” but the days of tuning in to Beck at 5 p.m. every weekday are officially numbered. In a joint release, it was announced that Beck “intends to transition off of his daily program, the third-highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.”
I’d argued recently that Beck and Fox were greater together than the sum of their parts, but then Andrew Napolitano sat in for Beck one day in March and practically matched Beck’s audience figures. Faster than you can say Wally Pipp, Beck and Fox started hedging about their long-term future together. Beck, whose contract runs until December, hinted of building his own channel, and he’s already invested in a large web presence at GlennBeck.com and TheBlaze.com. Plus, he still puts in three hours a day on the radio.
But will his audience follow him to a website or to a new television station? His television ratings were way down this year, but a bigger problem today for Beck is his rapidly aging audience. According to Nielsen, Beck lost nearly 50 percent of his under-50 viewers in the past year. Fifty percent! That means the majority of his loyal viewers are older folks who might be less likely to click off the tube so they can stream some online video of Beck’s blackboard lectures. They liked him at Fox at 5. But if he’s not there, it seems likely their viewing attitude will be, “Meh, well let’s see what this new guy with the hair has to say about Obama.” We’re all creatures of habit — habits that only solidify as we age.
So Beck might have a problem without the Fox wrapping. Could The Blaze turn into a conservative Huffington Post? Does Beck have a following that would support GlennTV? Hard to say. Or does Beck bet heavily on radio, where his style, opinions, and politics are perfectly suited for the medium and the folks who still listen.
Where do you think Beck belongs if not on Fox News? If you had to bet, how do you envision consuming your Beck bits next year at this time: TV, radio, or online?