After Fox News announced that it will be mercifully euthanizing Glenn Beck’s program, attention has quickly turned to how Beck managed to fall so quickly from TV star to a guy who is going to do some digital stuff for FNC. The answer can be found in the Color of Change advertiser boycott. The successful boycott cost Fox News millions of dollars, and made sure that the network had zero incentive to keep Beck around.
It all started on July 28 of 2009 when Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist on Fox and Friends:
In response ColorofChange.org launched a boycott of Glenn Beck’s advertisers that met with immediate success. Within a month Beck lost virtually all of his A-List advertisers, “Aegon, Ashley Furniture, Airware Inc. (makers of Brez anti-snoring aids), Allergan (maker of Restasis), Ally Bank (a unit of GMAC Financial Services), Ancestry.com, Applebee’s, AT&T, Bank of America, Best Buy, Binder & Binder, Blaine Labs Inc., Broadview Security, Campbell Soup Company, Capital One, ConAgra, Clorox, CVS, The Dannon Company, DirecTv, Discover, Ditech, The Elations Company, Experian (creator of FreeCreditReport.com), Farmers Insurance Group, GEICO, General Mills, HSBC, Humana, ICAN Benefit Group Insurance, Infiniti, Jelmar (manufacturer of CLR All-Purpose Cleaner) Johnson & Johnson (makers of Tylenol), Jordan McKenna Debt Counseling Network, Kraft, Lawyers.com, Lowe’s, Luxottica Retail (retail parent of LensCrafters and Pearle Vision), Men’s Wearhouse, Mercedes-Benz, NutriSystem, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, RadioShack, Re-Bath, Regions Financial Corporation, Sam (Store and Move), SC Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Sargento, Simplex Healthcare (creator of the Diabetes Care Club), Sprint, State Farm Insurance, Traveler’s Insurance, Travelocity, United States Postal Service, The UPS Store, Verizon Wireless, Vonage, Wal-Mart and Wyeth Consumer Healthcare.”
By mid-September 2009, the boycott was costing News Corp $600,000 a week. Despite the financial losses Rupert Murdoch stuck with Beck because his ratings were still high, and the company believed that Beck was right. However Beck’s ratings plunged in 2010, and the advertisers never came back.
After Beck had lost half of his audience by July of 2010, 15 of the 27 ad slots on his show were unpaid ads. The situation continued to get worse. By March 2011, 400 advertisers were boycotting Glenn Beck’s program. In the first quarter of 2011, Beck was still bleeding viewers to the tune of 500,000 a night.
Perhaps the ideologically driven Fox News would have continued to subsidize Beck if people were still watching, but the combination of no ad dollars and declining viewership numbers lead the network to pull the plug.
If Glenn Beck’s show was still a profitable venture, it would still be on the air. The truth is that once the Color of Change advertiser boycott took away the financial viability of the Glenn Beck program, it was really only a matter of time before the ratings fell, Fox News pulled the plug, and basically reassigned Beck to an area where he can still be profitable for the network.
Without being on television every day, the Glenn Beck brand will take a serious hit. Beck was well on his way to potentially being the next king of cable news, before he called Obama a racist, and the subsequent advertiser boycott destroyed his ability to generate revenue for Fox News. Glenn Beck will never be what he could have been. The truth is Beck and Fox were never able to come up with a strategy to reverse the boycott and bring the ad money back.
Like any business cable news revolves around money, and Color of Change demonstrated that the best way to bring about real change in the media is to hit them where it counts, on their bottom line. Fox News could have put up with the Beck circus if he was still making money for them, but without the potential upside of lucrative profit, the execs at FNC likely decided that Beck was no longer worth the hassle.
Those of you who are celebrating Glenn Beck’s departure from Fox News today owe Color of Change a big thank you for creating the financial environment that ensured Beck’s eventual demise.
Image: One Utah