Why Glenn Beck and Fox News Channel Are Better Off Apart

12:15 PM PST 04/06/2011 by Alex Ben Block
Alex Wong/Getty Images

With Beck’s departure, big brands also might return to the channel - and 2012 (an election year) might be a perfect time for the network to launch a new personality.

On Wednesday, Glenn Beck announced that he is ending his Fox News Channel program at the end of the year.

Though he is going to remain - and insiders recently told THR the breakup might not be a bad thing.

In a little less than 28 months on Fox News, Beck has become the second-highest-rated personality on a cable news network. Ratings for his 5 p.m. talk show also have fallen by a third from their high point of 3 million nightly viewers in 2009. And his controversial views have prompted many advertisers to refuse to buy time on his show.

“They can both get along well without each other,” said Michael Harrison of Talkers magazine, which tracks talk-radio personalities.

Beck makes about $2 million a year from Fox — a small part of his income, which Forbes estimated in April at $32 million annually. He’s a powerhouse in radio (his deal with Premiere Networks is worth $50 million), publishing (he’s about to renew his Simon & Schuster deal to produce four to six books annually), public speaking (about $3 million last year) and Internet ventures (his website, the Blaze, draws 3 million uniques a month and helps bring him $4 million).

“Whether you like him or not, people now know who Glenn Beck is, and he is going to have a following wherever and whatever he does,” analyst Brad Adgate said.

With Beck’s departure, big brands also might return, helping increase pricing of ads on Fox. And 2012 - an election year - might be a perfect time for the network to launch a new personality.

Beck, on the other hand, could focus on strengthening his existing empire (he has brought on key digital executives and added 88 radio stations this year) or even partner with an existing TV channel to create his own branded network like Oprah Winfrey did with Discovery Communications.

“It’s going to come down to money,” ad analyst David Scardino said.

Meanwhile, THR reported last week that a movie based on Beck’s 2008 book, The Christmas Sweater, is moving ahead. The book, based on his life, became the basis for a public event in which he told his stories. He sold film rights to producer Stephen Scheffer, a former top HBO executive, and Sony picked up the project in 2009 as a possible direct-to-video movie to be shot on a relatively low budget (less than $8 million). But there were budget and script issues, and after a year it went into turnaround. Beck’s politics apparently weren’t an issue, and Scheffer says he’s now talking with several studios about making the movie.

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