After Fox News cut ties with Bill O’Reilly over a sexual harassment scandal that caused advertisers to flee en masse, the popular conservative television staple is now a free agent.
And based on the nearly four million viewers who tuned into his final telecast on the news network on April 11, his legion of fans have not deserted him. He leaves as the most successful television news personality in the business by far.
“Bill’s followers are loyal to Bill—that is why you see the very unusual pop at 8 p.m.,” former CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein, told The Hollywood Reporter. “In Bill’s case, there’s active tune-in because viewers love him, and there’s active tune-out when his show is over.”
The problem is the sheer number of accusers against O’Reilly, following so closely to the Roger Ailes scandal in the same newsroom, makes it unlikely that rival news networks would take the public relations hit of hiring the abrasive TV pundit.
Industry insiders say Fox News likely has at least a six-month non-compete clause as part of O’Reilly’s exit package anyway.
The other big problem? O’Reilly has remained defiant and unapologetic in the face of the allegations. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he wrote in a statement acknowledging his exit from his employer. “But that is the unfortunate reality many in the public eye must live with today.”
A better model, says Klein, is O’Reilly’s former colleague, Glenn Beck. Back in 2011, Beck left Fox News to start his own highly successful streaming platform, TheBlaze (formerly known as Glenn Beck TV).