Curious viewers are giving Fox News’ show The O’Reilly Factor the best ratings the show has ever seen—but paid ad time has been cut by more than half, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The record ratings come after news that Fox paid out $13 million to multiple women to settle sexual harassment allegations against Fox News star Bill O’Reilly. Fox News saw an average 2.8 million viewers during the week of April 3, making it the most watched cable network for the 11th time in the past 12 weeks, according to Nielsen and reported by Multichannel News. MSNBC was second with 1.6 million viewers, followed by USA Network’s 1.5 million viewers and HGTV’s 1.4 million watchers.
O’Reilly announced this week during his Tuesday night show that he would be taking a two-week vacation—the longest time he has taken off consecutively in March or April for at least 10 years, according to the AP. Mark Fabiani, a spokesperson for O’Reilly, told Variety that the vacation was planned last October. O’Reilly is supposed to return to work and his TV show on April 24.
“Controversy is a breeding ground for interest,” Marc Berman, editor in chief of The Programming Insider, told SHOOT. “So people who otherwise might not have seen his show recently are curious. People might want to see if he addresses the subject. If the ratings were not up, I would have been surprised.”
21st Century Fox did announce Monday that the company will investigate the sexual harassment allegations by Bill O’Reilly, according to civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom and reported by CNN on Sunday. 21st Century Fox told CNN Money that the company "investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters."
The brands that have pulled their ads from The O’Reilly Factor include carmakers Subaru, BMW, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Lexus; healthcare brands GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Advil and Bayer; also Wayfair, Orkin, T. Rowe Price, Allstate and Esurance, Adweek reported.
But most of the ad checks are still being cashed by Fox—ads are being run during other network shows.
“We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about The O’Reilly Factor,” said Paul Rittenberg, EVP of advertising sales at Fox News, in a statement. “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”
Advertisers that have stuck with the network include Life Credit Company, Grace C Media, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and Gotham Steel, among others, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Fox News accounts for a large portion of 21st Century Fox’s profits, according to the Times. The O’Reilly Factor, brought in about $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015. As of Thursday, Fox had lost more than 60 advertisers from "The O’Reilly Factor," Motto reported.
Last year, Fox News founder and former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes resigned following his own sexual harassment scandal, which 21st Century Fox investigated, issued a public apology for and agreed to pay a settlement of $20 million to plaintiff Gretchen Carlson in September, The New York Times reported.
Ailes received $40 million from Fox following the scandal, in an “exit agreement.”