Why Fox News’ Popularity Is In Serious Jeopardy

Fox News fans’ tenacious passion for the network may have catapulted it to the top of the ratings heap but their advanced age may also help bring it down. Image  @ Commons.Wikipedia

Fox News fans’ tenacious passion for the network may have catapulted it to the top of the ratings heap but their advanced age may also help bring it down. Image @ Commons.Wikipedia

Fox News fans’ tenacious passion for the network may have catapulted it to the top of the ratings heap but their advanced age may also help bring it down.

In an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday, Bill Carter discusses how Fox has been able to “defy the tyranny of the demos,” i.e. buck the conventional wisdom that younger viewers are the moneymakers, and earn huge profits thanks to the dedication of its watchers. But, Carter notes, the audience’s age is literally off-the-ratings-chart elderly.

Just how old is its audience? It is impossible to be precise because Nielsen stops giving an exact figure for median age once it passes 65. But for six of the last eight years, Fox News has had a median age of 65-plus and the number of viewers in the 25-54 year old group has been falling consistently, down five years in a row in prime time, from an average of 557,000 viewers five years ago to 379,000 this year. That has occurred even though Fox’s overall audience in prime time is up this year, to 2.02 million from 1.89 million three years ago.

What this means is that Fox viewers are getting older and are not being replaced by younger viewers. In fact, Fox News viewers are, according to Carter, “quite a bit older than networks considered to have a base of older viewers.” The article also points out that the recent hiring of Elisabeth Hasselbeck and the coming switch of Megyn Kelly to prime time, each of whom are relative youths in Fox Landia, may well be a ploy to draw younger eyeballs.

What Carter didn’t point out is that the Fox News demographics generally mirror that of its BFF, the Republican Party – except that Fox fans are even older than the average Republican (almost 50). The GOP is clearly worried about the possibility of literally dying out. Whether or not Fox News will meet the same fate remains to be seen. But it would certainly be ironic if the network’s own downfall was not because of its outrageous propaganda, hate mongering or distortions but because the age of its own fans did it in.