Fox News Channel is removing one of its only nighttime hours of news coverage and replacing it with a right-wing opinion show, signifying a further shift toward the incendiary programming that Fox viewers overwhelmingly prefer.
The 7 p.m. hour, anchored by Martha MacCallum and called “The Story,” will become “Fox News Primetime” and will be led by a “rotating” cast of opinion hosts, a Fox spokesperson said Monday morning.
MacCallum will move to the 3 p.m. hour next Monday, Fox said. The move will surely be seen as a time slot demotion, since 7 p.m. is a much more prominent position.
The overhaul of the 7 p.m. hour is partly a response to ratings pressures. Fox News has been losing to CNN in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic. Since the election, when many of President Trump’s supporters were furious with Fox’s acknowledgement of Joe Biden’s victory, a far-right show on Newsmax has also been peeling away some of Fox’s viewers in the 7 p.m. hour.
Several Fox sources have described the Fox audience as “pissed” and “furious” about both Trump’s loss and Fox’s coverage, which has skewed to the right, but evidently not far enough for Trump loyalists.
MacCallum, who co-anchored Fox’s election coverage with 6 p.m. anchor Bret Baier, is one of the targets of the Trump base’s post-election rage, as a quick peek at her social media footprint proves. The replies to her posts on Twitter and Instagram pages are often full of venom about being insufficiently pro-Trump.
That’s surprising, to some degree, since MacCallum’s 7 p.m. show clearly leans conservative in its guest bookings and topic selections. But it is still considered by Fox to be a news program, not a full-blown opinion hour like “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle” later in the evening. So the decision to install an opinion host at 7 is telling about Fox’s direction.
Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox Corporation, was directly involved in the decision-making, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.
Staffers at Fox said Monday that the shakeup was an admission that Fox has newfound competition all across the right-wing media world, from Newsmax and other outlets like One America News.
One staffer offered a blunt interpretation of the moves: “Newsmax won.”
Newsmax has a far smaller audience than Fox at any given time of day, but its sudden ratings surge in November has caused a great deal of consternation inside Fox.
Shortly after the Fox schedule shakeup was announced, Newsmax issued a statement that began, “the Fox is on the run. The rise of Newsmax TV has caused a major shake-up at Fox News.”
Newsmax’s 7 p.m. host Greg Kelly has indulged Trump’s lies about the election for months. He has promoted conspiracy theories and insisted that Trump could still serve a second term, giving his viewers false hope about the future.
Not coincidentally, he has been the highest-rated host on the channel.
MacCallum’s move to 3 p.m. on Fox has several ripple effects. Bill Hemmer, who was only recently given the 3 p.m. hour after years of co-anchoring in the mornings, is now heading back to the mornings: He will be on from 9 to 11 a.m. alongside Dana Perino, who is also losing her solo hour at 2 p.m.
Instead of anchoring a solo hour at 1 p.m., Harris Faulkner will anchor at 11 a.m., leading into the “Outnumbered” talk show that she helms.
From 1 until 3 p.m., Sandra Smith will co-anchor with John Roberts, who is leaving his chief White House correspondent post for an anchor position.
The shuffling was first reported by Variety on Monday morning.
Two sources said further changes are expected to the programming lineup in the coming weeks.
Fox rejected suggestions that Monday’s moves were a result of post-election trouble, pointing out that the network said in October that it “regularly considers programming changes, including to its daytime lineup, and will launch new formats as appropriate after the election.”
Other networks also tend to make programming changes after presidential elections. CNN on Monday announced several new anchor roles.