Fox News Sunday turns five
Anniversary marked by strong ratings and younger demographics
By Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/29/2001 8:00:00 PM
As a longtime broadcast and cable pundit, as a political columnist and as a former speechwriter in the first Bush White House, Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow clearly has conservative bona fides.
But the toughest question on the Sunday before his show's fifth anniversary went not to left-wing icon Ralph Nader but to another guest: Donald Evans, Commerce Secretary to the son of the president that Snow himself served.
"A lot of people ask why we're trading with China when we're excluding Cuba for having the same kind of government," said Snow.
Evans' response was, to be kind, awkward.
"I love it when they get that deer-in-the-headlights look," said the show's executive producer, Marty Ryan, perhaps speaking for all political journalists.
"Duh!" said Snow, mimicking his network's ranking Sunday star, Homer Simpson.
It has been some time since a Sunday-morning broadcast political talk show celebrated five years on the air. In 1997, NBC's Meet the Press celebrated its 50th TV anniversary (after a few years on radio), having debuted before current host Tim Russert was born. CBS' Face the Nation followed in 1954; ABC's Issues and Answers, in 1960. ABC's This Week, originally This Week With David Brinkley, came on in the early 1980s.
Fox News Sunday hit the five-year mark last week, boasting soaring ratings and a younger demographic. Of course, the late entry into the crowded field had the most room for growth, and the show is still fourth of the four broadcast network shows by a considerable margin.
Fox News Sunday's median viewing age is 48, not exactly MTV demos, but its rivals' median viewer ages are well into the 50s.
Its special show on Sunday was to have included an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney and a taped message from President George W. Bush.
Fox News head Roger Ailes notes, though, that the other networks have far more established Sunday-morning news presence and that Fox News Sunday—still Fox's only broadcast news product—does much better in markets that offer news and not Psychic Hotline or Body by Jake infomercials.
Ailes, who left CNBC to launch the Fox News Channel, was so eager to enter the Sunday-morning fray that the show debuted without a studio; the first shows were shot at Washington-area historic sites. "I didn't give a damn. I wanted to get the show up," said Ailes.
Ailes, Snow and Fox Managing Editor Brit Hume reject any notion that the show leans to the right. Panelists Juan Williams of the Washington Post and Mara Liasson of National Public Radio are liberals, Hume noted.
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