Glenn Beck vs. Fox

AP Photo/Richard Drew

Why the host and Fox News Channel might be better off without each other.

In a little less than 28 months on Fox News, Glenn Beck has become the second-highest-rated personality on a cable news network. Yet the drum beat is getting louder that when his three-year contract with Fox is up Dec. 31, the controversial host will be pushed out or walk away.

Should Fox and Beck break up?

Ratings for his 5 p.m. talk show 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. But he still triples his next highest competitor in cable news and provides a strong lead-in for Fox’s top-rated lineup.

“They can both get along well without each other,” says 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 says.

But if Beck leaves, big brands 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 says.           

Beck’s Movie in Turnaround
Glenn Beck has yet to conquer the movie business. His 2008 book The Christmas Sweater, 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.