In early June 2020, Mr. Carlson instructed his viewers that the Black Lives Matter protests had been “positively not about Black lives” and to “keep in mind that after they come for you.” The subsequent night, as Fox’s public relations crew insisted Mr. Carlson’s remark was being mischaracterized, Mr. Carlson leaned in. “The mob got here for us — irony of ironies,” he instructed Fox viewers. “They spent the final 24 hours attempting to pressure the exhibit the air for good. They gained’t achieve that, fortunately. We work for one of many final courageous corporations in America, they usually’re not intimidated.”
Off-camera, Mr. Carlson might be much less defiant. In a dialog that spring with Eric Owens, certainly one of his former staff at The Each day Caller, he anxious that the controversy over his present had made it troublesome for his kids to get jobs and internships; he anxious that his youthful kids wouldn’t get into school. “It’s not proper for this to have an effect on my household, and actually have an effect on my kids’s future,” Mr. Carlson mentioned, based on Mr. Owens.
But it surely’s much less clear whether or not the assaults considerably affected Fox’s backside line: To compensate for the misplaced promoting, Fox turned “Tucker Carlson Tonight” right into a promotional engine for the community itself. It changed the fleeing sponsors with a torrent of in-house promos, leveraging Mr. Carlson’s recognition to drive viewers to different, extra advertiser-friendly choices. By early 2019, roughly a fifth of all promoting “impressions” on the present had been from in-house advertisements, based on knowledge from the analytics firm iSpot.television. That summer time, as Fox fended off criticism of Mr. Carlson’s “hoax” feedback, the proportion climbed to greater than a 3rd. (A Fox spokeswoman mentioned the precise proportions had been decrease, however declined to offer particular figures.) “Fox is mainly an unlimited loyalty model,” mentioned Jason Damata, the chief govt officer of Material Media, a media consultancy. “He’s the hook.”
Different promoting slots had been taken by direct-to-consumer manufacturers that both didn’t care about Mr. Carlson’s dangerous publicity or noticed that they might use his depth to promote their merchandise. Starting in January 2019, MyPillow, a Fox advertiser whose chief govt, Mike Lindell, is a serious promoter of Mr. Trump’s stolen-election lie, started airing greater than $1 million value of advertisements on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” every month. Fox seemed to be utilizing MyPillow to cushion Mr. Carlson: As different promoting dried up, the corporate’s advertisements spiked. (All instructed, by December 2021, Mr. Lindell had purchased promoting that will have value $91 million at publicized charges; reductions most likely made that sum decrease.)
Blue-chip advertisers would by no means return to the present in pressure. However thanks partly to the massive audiences he may present for these advertisers who remained, and the premium costs Fox may cost them, Mr. Carlson’s advert income started to recuperate. Yearly since 2018, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has introduced extra annual advert income to Fox than another present, based on estimates by iSpot. Final Could, after selling the white supremacist “substitute” idea, Mr. Carlson had half as many advertisers as in December 2018 however introduced in nearly twice as a lot cash.
As “Tucker Carlson Tonight” grew to become extra poisonous to advertisers, it additionally started that includes fewer friends who disagreed with the host, and extra friends who merely echoed or amplified Mr. Carlson’s personal message. It wasn’t simply that liberals didn’t need to debate him, although some now refused to seem on the present, as Mr. Carlson complained throughout a Fox look final summer time; Fox was studying that its viewers didn’t essentially like listening to from the opposite facet. “From my discussions with Fox Information bookers, my takeaway is that they’ve made the judgment that they simply don’t do debate segments anymore,” mentioned Richard Goodstein, a Democratic lobbyist and marketing campaign adviser who appeared frequently on Mr. Carlson’s present till the summer time of 2020. Throughout a lot of the Fox lineup, former staff mentioned, producers had been relying increasingly more on panels of pro-Trump conservatives competing to see who may denounce Democrats extra fervently — a rankings gambit one former Fox worker known as “rage inflation.” (One exception, maybe, is “The 5,” a panel present that includes four conservative co-hosts and one rotating co-host from the left, which has overwhelmed Mr. Carlson in total viewers in some current months.)
And as advertisers fled, Mr. Carlson’s opening monologue grew. The place as soon as he spoke for just a few minutes, typically in a impartial just-asking-questions mode, he now typically opened the present with a prolonged stemwinder, addressing his viewers as “you” and the objects of his fury as a shadowy “they.” Rankings knowledge confirmed that the monologues had been successful with viewers, based on one former and one present Fox worker, and by 2020, Mr. Carlson frequently spoke on to the digital camera for greater than quarter of the hourlong present. As a substitute of much less Tucker, the viewers bought extra.