Advertisers continued to abandon Fox News’ top-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor” on Wednesday, as fallout from a scandal involving the show’s namesake host persisted.
By Wednesday evening, the number of companies that said they had pulled advertisements from the primetime program had increased to 52. Among the most prominent were Advil, Mercedes, BMW and Jenny Craig, with Bristol Myers Squibb and Reddi-wip/Con Agra among those that announced their decision late in the day.
The firms are withdrawing advertisements following a New York Times investigation published on Saturday that ignited the controversy.
While more than a dozen companies had deserted their advertising bookings in time for Tuesday night’s broadcast, the show was not at a loss during ad breaks — around 30 advertisements ran.
Industry sources believe the top-rated program could have between 100 and 200 advertisers with big ad budgets who book six to 12 months in advance.
“The O’Reilly Factor,” now in its 20th year on the air, brings in more revenue than any other program on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC, according to market research firm Kantar Media. Estimates suggest the show brought in some $119 million in ad revenue during the first nine months of 2016 alone.
That bombshell report from the New York Times alleges five women received settlements from Fox News and O’Reilly totaling some $13 million after making misconduct accusations against the top-rated host. Some of these settlements were already known and date back to 2004. ABC News has not been able to independently verify new information in the Times story.
Asked about the Times investigation on Tuesday, 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, said in a statement that it “takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously.”
“Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News,” the statement continued.
In a statement posted on his website on April 1, O’Reilly denied the claims, writing in part: “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.”
He continued: “But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
He said that the “worst part” of his job was “being a target for those who would harm me and my employer,” and his “primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”
O’Reilly has not addressed the Times report on air.
Other companies that have told ABC News that they are halting their advertisements during the show include: Hyundai, Allstate, Lexus, H&R Block and Subaru.
“We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about ‘The O’Reilly Factor,'” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.”
According to TV industry news site TVNewser, “the four episodes that Bill O’Reilly hosted were the top [four] cable news shows last week.”
And on Monday night, O’Reilly was the most watched program at 8 p.m. eastern in terms of both total viewers (3.654 million viewers) and in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic (645,000 viewers), according to TVNewser.