More than two months after Fox News host Tucker Carlson saw a mass exodus of advertisers from his primetime cable news show following his assertion that immigration makes America “poorer and dirtier,” it would appear that Tucker Carlson Tonight is still suffering from a lack of sponsors. And with a dearth of blue-chip companies willing to place ads during the program, Fox News looks to be leaning heavily on one advertiser, in particular, to help fill time.
Based on an analysis of the last four Tucker Carlson Tonight broadcasts (2/19 – 2/22), the program averaged 27 total ads for a run time of 16 minutes and 20 seconds across four advertising breaks. Of those ads, five a night were promo spots for other Fox programming or Fox Nation, the network’s online streaming service. And four minutes a night went to pillow manufacturing company MyPillow.
For each of the last four evenings, MyPillow ran two two-minute commercials during Carlson’s show. Most commercials run 30 seconds. This shows that the sleep product specialist, which became a household name via round-the-clock infomercials that overstated claims for which the company was later successfully sued, is currently responsible for roughly a quarter of Tucker’s commercial air time.
Prior to the advertiser backlash, which began after Carlson made his immigration remarks last December and was spearheaded by a social media campaign by progressive activists and groups, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 36 total ads a night over five advertising breaks that totaled roughly 18 minutes a night. A week later, Carlson’s program was down to four ad breaks totaling 14 minutes and 28 seconds of ads.
Last month, the Hollywood Reporter noted that Carlson was averaging 24 ads per episode across four advertising breaks, with one show featuring only 19 spots. In late December, a Fox News spokesperson told THR that “the channel usually has lighter ad during the holiday period between Christmas and the first few weeks of the New Year” and that “ad loads pick up towards the end of the month.”
In the weeks following Carlson’s remarks, at least 26 companies announced that they ceased advertising on Tucker Carlson Tonight. In the days following the boycott, Fox News took aim at progressive groups Sleeping Giants, MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America, saying they “cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.”
When we reached out to Fox News for comment on this piece, a network spokesperson re-upped the network’s support for Carlson.
“FOX News will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson’s to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts from intolerant left wing activists at Moveon.org, Media Matters and Sleeping Giants,” the statement said. “We continue to strongly support Tucker and his show which is the most watched program at 8pm in cable news.”
Sleeping Giants and progressive activist Jordan Uhl took the lead in contacting Carlson’s advertisers after his immigration comments, which drew a lot of attention after Media Matters senior researcher Andrew Lawrence tweeted out a clip while pointing out that the segment was sponsored by insurance company Pacific Life. Pacific Life was the first company to suspend its relationship with Carlson’s show, resulting in a snowball effect.
Reacting to the continued strength of the advertiser boycott as it enters its third month, Uhl told Contemptor that this “just goes to show that companies increasingly see Tucker Carlson as a toxic brand to affiliate with.”
He continued: “His show is only getting more volatile, which puts their brands at even greater risk. It’s hard to think of worse investment in your business than advertising with Tucker Carlson.”
Besides buying up ad time on Tucker’s show, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, has also appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. In late December, following the ad backlash, Carlson aired a pre-taped interview with Lindell in which the MyPillow head (and chief pitchman) promoted an anti-abortion film he had invested in.
Tucker Carlson Tonight isn’t the only Fox News program that Lindell, a passionate Trump supporter, has stood by and assisted in the wake of controversy and ad boycotts. When Fox’s Laura Ingraham faced a similar advertiser backlash last year after she publicly mocked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg for getting rejected by four colleges, Lindell soon became Ingraham’s top advertiser and pledged to keep supporting her throughout the boycott.
As for other Tucker Carlson advertisers, anti-virus software manufacturer PC Matic and bed linen company Sheex also ran multiple minute-long commercials during the week. In terms of ‘household’ names that ran multiple ads last week, the most noteworthy national brands were allergy medication Claritin, weight-loss company Jenny Craig, online investing company E*TRADE and USAA, a financial services group serving military members and their families.
Earlier this month, TheWrap reported that the advertising boycotts of Ingraham’s and Carlson’s shows had cost Fox News millions of dollars in lost revenue. According to data analyzed by Standard Media Index, Ingraham’s 10 PM hour was down $16 million in 2018 — the Hogg boycott began in late-March 2018 — while Carlson had lost an additional $2.2 million since December.
“Things could be better for Fox News and their advertisers,” former advertising executive and media analyst Brad Adgate told TheWrap. “The revenue for two of their three weeknight primetime shows is down significantly and there is still no turnaround.”
In response to TheWrap’s report, Fox News president of ad sales Marianne Gambelli denied any revenue had been lost, saying Fox News had shifted inventory to other programs and were “on track to deliver a record year in ad sales.” She also said that “advertisers have started to return” and the period that was being tracked was “not representative of the status quo in commercial loads for the industry as virtually every network runs a lighter commercial load during the first two weeks of the year.”