The Glenn Beck era at Fox News is coming to an end.
The cable news channel and Mr. Beck's production company, Mercury Radio Arts, announced on Tuesday that the controversial host will "transition off of his daily program later this year." The two companies will continue to work together, developing and producing projects for the cable television channel as well as for its digital properties, the announcement said.
Mr. Beck, whose contract with Fox News expires in December, had been expected to leave. The host has built his production company into a $32 million business, according to Forbes, and he has talked about expanding into other formats.
Radio and book publishing contribute the largest portions of his total revenue -- $10 million and $13 million, respectively. Fox News contributes just $2 million. Nonetheless, his television show raised his profile to unprecedented levels.
Though the host will continue to work with Fox News, his frequent outrageous remarks have reportedly been an embarrassment to the channel's news operation. More important, national advertisers long ago fled the show, leaving it almost exclusively to direct response advertisers.
According to the African-American advocacy group ColorOfChange.org, which launched an advertising boycott of the show in July 2009, more than 300 advertisers have pulled out.
It also hasn't helped that "Glenn Beck" is no longer the ratings juggernaut that it was a year ago, during the height of the Tea Party's rise. For the first quarter of 2011, the show was down 31% in total viewers, to 2 million, compared to the year-ago period, according to Nielsen. In the advertiser-preferred category of adults 25 to 54 years old, the show plunged 38%, to 481,000.
Mr. Beck still easily wins his 5 p.m. time period, providing a strong lead-in to Brett Baier's 6 p.m. news program. Still, media buyers say that the host's departure makes good business sense.
"It's going to be hard for Fox to replace that level of rating at that time of the day, but they'll be able to bring back national advertisers," said Michael Parent, director of national broadcast for media-buying agency Targetcast tcm.
According to the announcement, Fox News Senior VP Joel Cheatwood will join Mercury Radio Arts later this month as an exec VP charged with managing Mr. Beck's partnership with the channel.
"Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody's standards," Fox News CEO Roger Ailes said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to work with him."
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This story first appeared in Crain's New York Business. Matthew Flamm is a reporter for CNYB.