Without Major Sponsors, Tucker Carlson's Show Leans on Ads for Fox Programming

Tucker Carlson Tonight March 21 - H - 2019
Fox News

'Tucker Carlson Tonight,' besieged by social media backlash, is increasingly filling commercial breaks with in-house ads and direct-response brand spots.

As blue-chip advertisers have abandoned Tucker Carlson's well rated primetime show, his network has recently opted to keep things in the family, broadcasting an increasingly sizable number of "house ads" for Fox News, Fox Nation, Fox television and Fox Sports programming in recent weeks, according to a Hollywood Reporter review.

In the two weeks leading up to Dec. 13, when Carlson said that immigration makes America "dirtier," Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 1.33 house ads per show. In the weeks that followed, Carlson's show lost at least 26 major advertisers, and the show has lost even more sponsors — including SHEEX — since Media Matters for America first surfaced inappropriate comments Carlson made on a radio show between 2006 and 2011.

Since the progressive advocacy group published the first batch of comments on March 10, the nine episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight that have aired have included 6.2 house ads per show. Ads for Fox programming have made up 34.8 percent of the show's advertising spots in that period, compared to just 3.7 percent in the period leading up to his December comment about immigration.

Overall, Carlson's ad load has fallen from about 36 per show to about 18 per show.

Carlson's sponsor base now consists of few, if any, major brands, led by direct-response advertisers MyPillow, MyPhoto, ReputationDefender, gutter protection product Leaf Filter, moving and storage company PODS, mattress company Purple and cardiovascular health device Zona Plus.

"We support all of our sponsors and they know the value of the audience," Fox News president of ad sales Marianne Gambelli said in a statement to THR.

While the network has indicated that it expects Carlson's once-major corporate advertisers to return to his show, that has not happened. Pacific Life Insurance, the first brand to pull out of Carlson's show, confirmed to THR that it will not return to the show after originally saying that it would take a few weeks to "re-evaluate" the advertising relationship.

"We do not have any plans to advertise with the program," a spokesperson for the company said this week.

The network can rely on the support of advertisers like MyPillow, which is run by Mike Lindell, a Trump supporter who told THR last month that ad boycotts are "horrific" and "the worst thing ever."

In the last week and a half of shows, the only major brand advertisers have been Progressive Insurance, Nutrisystem and Bayer, though the pharmaceutical company, once a major and reliable Tucker Carlson advertiser, has not run a spot on the show since March 11. A spokesperson for Bayer has not responded to requests for comment on the company's plans. Prominent Carlson advertiser Jenny Craig has also not advertised recently.

Brad Adgate, an industry analyst, says that relying on house ads could work as a "short-term" strategy. But, he says, "if this is a prolonged 'boycott' of the show, at some point Fox News might be forced to consider other options. It's on primetime, one of the most watched shows on Fox News, and to have it filled with mostly promos and direct-response ads is resulting in lost revenue for the newer Fox company." (The network has denied that Carlson's lost advertisements have hurt the company financially, put out statements in support of Carlson and decried efforts to protest the show as "intimidation.")

Adgate says that Fox News will have tough decisions to make about Carlson and host Jeanine Pirro, who is currently suspended and has already lost at least four corporate sponsors of her Saturday night show. "Ultimately, it will come down to dollars," he says.

Carlson, in particular, is thought to be well liked by the Murdoch family that controls parent company Fox and is in little danger of losing his job, particularly because, as analyst Andrew Tyndall has said, the network is "much more dependent on subscription fees from cable operators than it is on revenue from advertisers."