As of today, Glenn Beck has lost 62 advertisers and counting due to Color of Change’s campaign. And FOX is still asserting that this doesn’t really hurt the network as a whole, because the advertisers are simply re-directing their ad buys to other shows.
A lot of progressives have taken this dismissal at face value — but they shouldn’t. It’s a fib, and anyone who’s run a retail operation knows it. The key problem with FOX’s blithe assertion is that it seems to suggest that there’s an infinite amount of airtime to be had. If we can’t sell this time, we’ll just make it up by selling other time.
The question that’s being begged here is: What other time? In the real world, advertising time is a very limited resource — which is precisely why it’s so valuable, and why TV stations can charge so much for it. There are only 24 hours in a day; and only about 18 minutes of each hour can be sold to advertisers. Not even Rupert Murdoch can change those terms. Those 432 minutes per station per day are all he gets, ever. To stay profitable, FOX needs to squeeze the most revenue possible out of every last one of those minutes. It can’t afford to donate any of them to charity on a long-term basis, which is effectively what’s happening in Beck’s case.
Most Fox News Channel stations run Beck’s show at least a couple of times per day, usually during prime hours when they can charge top rates for the time. That means that the Color of Change campaign is depriving FOX of its ability to sell two out of every 24 hours, in every market — and some of its most lucrative hours, at that.
To get a sense of this, imagine having a real-life store, and suddenly losing 8.5% of your total square footage and inventory. Worse: it’s coming out of your very best display space and top-of-the-line merchandise. And to add insult to injury, you’re still having to carry all the same overhead costs you did before. In a lot of industries, losing that much of your margin is a death sentence. Media runs at higher margins, but it still cuts to the bone.
Those diverted advertisers are left to pick over whatever’s still available in the remaining 22 hours. And that ain’t much. Where are they going to go? O’Reilly and Hannity are already well-supported by top-rate advertisers, and there’s no more time to be sold there. And I’m sorry, but advertising on the 2 a.m. re-run of Greta Van Susteren’s show just doesn’t have the same bang for the buck.
Any way you cut it, FOX is losing almost all the revenue it should be making off Beck’s prime time slots. Even if the advertisers move to other shows, it won’t help them recover what the network as a whole is losing as a result of this campaign. They’re trying to put a happy face on it and say it doesn’t matter — but behind the scenes, they’re scrambling to pull together enough wingnut welfare to keep Beck afloat until this all blows over.
FOX needs that cash. It’s not getting it. Don’t let them tell you it’s not hitting them where it hurts.