Tucker Carlson Is Already Bigger Than Fox News
The fallout is still petering down to earth from Monday’s firing of Tucker Carlson, as you’d expect; the most popular and objectively best commentator in American media is run out of his job on what seems like the whim of his employer, costing that company a billion dollars in market capitalization and more than a million viewers per night in the time slot he formerly occupied, and yeah – it’s going to be a big deal.
The interesting thing is, though, that unlike in the case of previous Fox News star commentators who’ve been chased away, Carlson is larger for his ouster and Fox is smaller.
Glenn Beck has moved on to bigger and better things from his late-afternoon Fox News show, but it took him years to create The Blaze and turn it into a sustainable platform. Megyn Kelly moved on to NBC, where she was a bad fit, but she wanted to raise her kids; she’s now hosting a very successful and popular podcast and seems to be fully comfortable with the audience and influence she has. Bill O’Reilly similarly has built his own podcast platform and has held a significant audience.
All are still relevant. None are bigger than Fox News.
But Carlson is something different. And to prove it, last night he dropped a two-minute video message on his Twitter…
As of this writing, that video has garnered some 47 million views in about 13 hours.
It’s Carlson’s first message since his Fox ouster, so obviously it was going to draw lots of eyes. But Carlson was regularly drawing three to three and a half million viewers on Fox’s air, and now he’s showing he can generate 10 to 15 times that number whenever he wants.
There’s the old line from the first Star Wars movie when Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Darth Vader, “Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you can imagine.” That’s an overused reference, to be sure, and it’s usually quite wrong. But in this case I don’t think it is.
Earlier this week I had an American Spectator column on the subject of Carlson’s separation from Fox News, and in it I said this…
The Carlson and Lemon separations are essentially opposite reactions showing the same rot, however. Which is that cable news is dying, and rapidly. Even despite his massive ratings, Carlson’s audience is a quarter of Joe Rogan’s — the fact is, Fox News has held him back more than supported him over the last few years. And Fox’s corporate suits have reined in his examinations of critical issues — the Jan. 6 footage is an obvious example, but there are many others.
There won’t be much left to salvage following Carlson’s ouster, either. When he passes from Fox News to his next iteration — perhaps at the Blaze or the Daily Wire as a player-owner, or perhaps in turning the Daily Caller into a multimedia empire and streaming platform of its own, or maybe as part of some new venture; surely there would be investors lining up to fund a Carlson-headlined media distribution channel of some sort — he’s going to show that he’s bigger than they are.
As he should. Because he is. The talent is always more relevant than the suits. And when the suits forget that, the market cap numbers invariably will render a verdict.
The era of cable news being relevant in American media is ending. It was ending even before Carlson’s departure from Fox News. Something else is coming, and that something else almost certainly will not be part of the corporate media conglomerate complex that has destroyed news media in this country.
Fox’s core viewer base has been restless for quite some time and it’s increasingly dissatisfied with the “controlled opposition” nature of its opinion hosts and establishment-narrative news division. You’d think that would translate into better viewership for Newsmax and OAN, and it has, but that isn’t really what’s happening.
What’s happening to cable news is the same thing that’s happening to cable TV as a whole, which is that streaming platforms and podcasts are displacing it. As more and more people are beginning to understand how to find podcasts and other streaming content – and particularly the baby boomer crowd whose viewership created cable news in the first place – audiences are finding podcasts to be fresher, more honest, and less encumbered by the demands of advertisers and corporate suits.
Tucker Carlson was almost certainly pulled off the air because he had made threatening noises about Big Pharma. Drug companies are the most lucrative advertisers with corporate media, and this fact makes them untouchable.
But if you’re an independent media outlet and you run on a subscription model, or some other means of monetization that doesn’t involve advertising, Big Pharma can’t do anything to shut you down.
People instinctively know this stuff. Which is why the momentum is away from corporate media altogether as the masses “cut the cord” and drop cable TV.
And now that Carlson has crossed over from cable and into the independent media space – what form that rebirth takes isn’t known yet, but it would be shocking if Tucker Carlson ever accepted having a boss again – the bet here is it’s going to signal a structural change which is good for society.
Like he said, ultimately the truth will win. You’ll see that happening in the media space more and more now, because this sclerotic status quo won’t hold.