Fox News’ Campaign for Post-Election-Year Revenue - Broadcasting & Cable

Fox News’ Campaign for Post-Election-Year Revenue

Top-rated network pitches live viewing in 20th year
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There will be a new president next year, but the same news network is likely to be atop the ratings.

Fox News and its rivals will face the challenge of growing advertising revenue after a record-setting election year that featured a parade of debates, each of which drew tens of millions of viewers. That list was led by the 24 million who watched the GOP candidates on Fox News last Aug. 6. The Republicans debated again on the network March 3, but ratings were not available at presstime.

Paul Rittenberg, executive VP for ad sales at Fox News, concedes that ratings could slip 5%-10% in 2016-17. But he expects revenue to be up substantially.

“That’s our job,” says Rittenberg. Based partly on a scatter market in which prices are up as much as 20%, he’s expecting a strong upfront with higher ad rates on a cost-per-thous-and-viewers (CPM) basis.

He’s also expecting growth on the digital side, where revenues could top $100 million a year. And the Fox Business Network should also show gains after getting a boost from its own debates.

Next year will mark Fox News’ 20th anniversary. While it’s a significant milestone, Rittenberg doesn’t expect the network to make a huge deal of it on the air. Nor is it seeking out 20th anniversary sponsors. Instead, Rittenberg’s pitch will focus on the benefits of the now—namely, the live viewing that news generates.

Fox News normally gets the bulk of its ad dollars from three categories: pharmaceuticals, financial services and automotive. This season the channel attracted many clients it doesn’t typically get because of the presidential debates’ unusually high ratings, including a number of movie studios.

“I knew we were going to get money for 13 Hours. I didn’t know we’d get money for Straight Outta Compton,” Rittenberg says. And yet the network did.

During those debates, about two-thirds of the viewers were people who previously hadn’t watched any news channel, he says.

Rittenberg expects to retain some of those viewers and some studio money, depending on the audience for particular pictures because of the live viewing. “Whatever audience we deliver on a Thursday, 95%-plus of it is going to be watching when we want them to watch it, and there’s value to that,” he says.

Although its live numbers are high—Fox News jumped up to first place among all cable networks in live ratings for prime and total-day during a debate-free February—it sells based on C3 commercial ratings. For some clients, it will also guarantee reaching a more affluent audience. For example, for some automakers, Fox News will guarantee on adults 35-64, in homes with incomes of more than $150,000. It gets a premium for that.

Rittenberg says advertisers should also feel comfortable buying Fox News because even if there are under-deliveries, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes insists those shortfalls will be made up quickly and not carried over into the next quarter or next year. Though it hasn’t happened recently, “if we under-deliver, we take stuff out of sale and we make it good. In this day and age, we don’t want to give people a reason to shift money to targeted digital video,” he says. “We’re going to stress that as a differentiator as well.”

Fox News doesn’t do a lot of integrations. But it has been working with clients interested in sponsoring single episodes of its high-rated primetime shows with limited commercials.

Rittenberg says a financial services company is sponsoring Megyn Kelly’s show during the second quarter. Fox has also done that a few times with Bret Baier’s show, including the one airing after Election Day.

Rittenberg notes anchors don’t talk about the sponsor. And it’s tough to cut the commercial load and still have the same revenue. Nevertheless, he’s hoping to increase the frequency from one or two per quarter to monthly.

There are also a few segments on primetime shows that can be sponsored, such as Bill O’Reilly’s “Talking Points.” “It’s always available, but it’s pretty expensive,” Rittenberg notes.

Even facing a post-election slump, Fox News is bullish. “If people are still getting the bulk of their news from TV, and they are, then I think the ratings will still be pretty good,” Rittenberg says. And in the first 100 days of a new administration, there’s always plenty to cover. “If there’s a President Trump, there’s going to be news every day,” he says.

WE REPORT, YOU BUY

The top 10 advertisers on Fox News so far this season (in millions), according to iSpot.TV. Fox News says these advertisers have spent “substantially more” with the network.

FOX NEWS’ LEADING ADVERTISERS

Nutrisystem ..................................... $3.6
2. Capital One ..................................$2.5
(tie) Right to Rise USA ......................$2.5
4. Geico .......................................... $2.2
5. Liberty Mutual ...............................$2.0
6. Ram Trucks ................................. $1.9
(tie) Prevagen .................................. $1.9
(tie) Rosland Capital ........................ $1.9
9. My Pillow .....................................$1.7
(tie) Lear Capital ...............................$1.7

Order based on spending from 10/1/15–2/24/16.

There will be a new president next year, but the same news network is likely to be atop the ratings.

Fox News and its rivals will face the challenge of growing advertising revenue after a record-setting election year that featured a parade of debates, each of which drew tens of millions of viewers. That list was led by the 24 million who watched the GOP candidates on Fox News last Aug. 6. The Republicans debated again on the network March 3, but ratings were not available at presstime.

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