Don Davis

Was Glenn Beck Just Promoted?

Filed By Don Davis | April 07, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Fox Business, Fox News, Glenn Beck, media, News Corp, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, television

So, the thing is, I'm not the one who tends to follow the herd.

glenn-beck.jpgIf everyone's backed up on the freeway, I'm the one who will look for the longer but less crowded country road. When everyone's talking about whoever out-sang or out-danced or out-cake-bossed someone else, I'm the one with the blank face - and if there's a room full of people line dancing, I'll be the one over in the corner having a smoke and wondering what went wrong with y'all.

And that's why, while everyone else is all excited about Glenn Beck's imminent "disappearance" from the television firmament... I'm not so sure.

In fact, I can easily see a scenario that leads to a lot more Beck, and that's what we'll be talking about today.

"I've still got a lot to learn about Washington. Why, yesterday, I accidentally spent some of my own money."

--Former Senator Fred Thompson, as retold by former Senator Bob Dole

OK, so you're News Corp, and you've got a really popular character on your Fox News network. But the guy is a disaster from a profit-making point of view, because he's driving away all those advertisers that you need to make the money thing work.

And that's not all: some suggest he's no friend of Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News. In television (to paraphrase Tom Arnold), you can be hostile with your boss or you can be unprofitable, but you can't be both.

If that wasn't bad enough, all his crazy talk is making it hard for Fox News to be a "real" news network, and that's keeping them from getting the access they used to have when the last administration was in town.

To make things even worse, there's that Fox Business Channel, which draws an average audience that's about 1 or 2 or 3% of what Beck draws to his Imaginarium every night.

And now the time has come To Do Something.

What is coming from here on out is entirely speculative, and I do not have the input of an Actual, No-Kidding, Source I Can't Name, as I have had in some other stories recently, but if you had hired me, in my fake consulting capacity, to Do Something about this particular turd sandwich, I might just be able to make it work.

First things first: you separate Beck from the Fox News network (and, of course, Ailes), and that did take place Wednesday when Fox and Mercury Radio Arts (Beck's production company) announced:

...that they will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the FOX News Channel (FNC) as well as content for other platforms including FOX News' digital properties. Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.

So that leaves you with a chance to begin "rehabilitating" Fox News. It also leaves you with Beck producing the occasional "special" and producing lots of "premium" content for his website, which would make me want to try to "monetize" him a bit more; that brings me to my next move.

Why not turn the Fox Business Channel into the Fox Opinion Channel?

That's right: put Imus, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, Cavuto, Fox and Friends, Huckabee, Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin, Stossel, the whole wacky crew - maybe even Donald Trump, after his "Presidential Campaign" peters out - all on the same channel, all day and all night, and take some of that "premium" website content and turn it into "filler" for the new venture (and while you're at it, make similar deals for filler with the rest of the gang).

So what about the current Fox Business business?

If you take everything off of that channel and distill it out to its "essence," there might be two or three hours a day of potentially interesting programming; alternatively you take Stuart Varney and Liz Claman and make them the Fox News "business team" who come on every hour during the trading day with a three-minute "market wrap." You could fill out the coverage with one longer recap daily, either before opening or after closing.

Now you're taking a big chance here, and that's because the advertiser boycott that has been crippling Beck on Fox will almost certainly continue. But if Beck were to change his message slightly (more subtly racist, less apocalyptic), he could gain some of those advertisers back.

For Fox, there isn't much to lose, since Beck's departure should help Fox News Channel regain advertisers who avoided the whole Beck mess (Poli-Grip still wants to reach conservatives, yes?), and the current level of profit at the current Fox Business Channel probably wouldn't even buy a week's worth of Starbuck's for the Fox and Friends trio. Since all the assets required to make the change are already "owned" by News Corp, costs don't really go up with the change as much as they just shift around; the exception being the big splashy ad campaign to make it all happen.

Now here's the crazy part: Fox and Beck appear to have begun the "parting of the ways" today. At the same time, Fox News also dispatched Senior Vice President of Production/Development Joel Cheatwood to the new venture, which could suggest that Beck really does have something up his sleeve. Or that Cheatwood's welcome was also worn out at Fox.

So is Beck gone, or is Beck about to reappear in a whole new form?

I'm not sure, but there is a place he could go, and even though it's a risk, it's not a huge one - and if you took All The Crazy and put it "over there" it would allow you to clean up your mess "over here", just in time for the potentially hugely profitable 2012 Citizens United presidential campaign. Since many of your "Fox Opinion Channel" 2012 advertisers will love Beck and the rest of the gang (Crossroads GPS and the Tea Party Nation, for example), the risk of an advertiser boycott "over there" will be minimized until November 2012 at least.

As I say, it's all completely speculative, so you have to take this with a bag of road salt--but it's also the kind of thing that makes perfect sense, and if you ask me, nothing is more logical than the self-anointed King of Conspiracy dramatically reappearing after creating one of his own.

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Om Kalthoum | April 7, 2011 2:23 PM

The man, Frank Lampedusa, worked with middle school students, grades six through eight.

Lampedusa's listing...[was] titled "Horned up all weekend and need release" and contained the following text:

"In shape guy, masc, attractive, 32 waist, swimmer's build, horny as fuck. Looking to suck and swallow masc guys, also looking to get fucked. Uncut and huge shooters jump to head of line. Give my [sic] your loads so I can shoot mine. White, black, Hispanic, European, all good. No fats, fems, queens, asians. NO BELLIES. Have pics when you email."

The ad also contained four pictures of Lampedusa: the first of his face, torso and abdomen, the second of his anus, the third of his genitalia, and the fourth of his face and upper torso. The listing did not contain Lampedusa's name, contact information, profession, or any mention of his employment by the District or Farb.

[text from the Appellate Court's reversal]

Om Kalthoum | April 7, 2011 2:25 PM

Sorry, folks, I have no idea how this comment ended up here. I hadn't even read this article.

hey...things happen.

i do have to say, though, that i read you r comment--twice--and then i went back and looked at the story to see what the hell i was talking about.

Om that was indeed hilarious after reading Don's comment on the Beck conspiracy. It would have been a wet keyboard moment if I had been sipping a glass of wine.

beck conspiracy in action: i don't know if it's true for you...but when i access this story, the ad that's been placed just below the an ad for goldline, which is one of the few sponsors beck has left.

Kathy Padilla | April 7, 2011 3:13 PM

I agree that the Beck move is all about preparing for the Pres election.

I'm not sure that Fox feels any need to move its other opinionators. And - if memory serves - they've had trouble getting Fox Business on basic cable around the country? I guess adding him there might help them with that.

But I just don't think they care enough about any perceptions around their other opinionaters on their news channel - it's working fine for them. Maybe moving Beck to the other channel helps just by bringing audience there & trying to get it on more basic cable lineups.

you summed up my thinking fairly well: the best reason to do something like this would be to try to get some value out of the assets that are today the fox business channel.

Your theory is interesting, and I'm certain we haven't heard the last of Beck, but it goes beyond the advertiser problem. He has been rapidly losing viewers as well...even some radio stations are dropping his show, and believe me, they don't care about his politics, just the money they can make off him.

If you go back and look at his career, this has followed the same trajectory. He's such an empty suit that he can only carry things for so long, and he runs out of anything close to intelligent commentary, so his schtict gets crazier and crazier until his employer realizes he's gotta go.

I'm sure they have someone in mind for that time slot, and I'm guessing they didn't want everyone to leave before they could bring someone else in.