Fox News Mulls Primetime Changes After Tucker Carlson Exit

After Tucker, a deluge of speculation.

Fox News Channel is considering “multiple scenarios” for its primetime lineup after the ouster of Tucker Carlson, with the network declining to comment on a recent report that veteran Sean Hannity might move into its primetime lead-off hour at 8 p.m.

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“No decision has been made on a new primetime line-up and there are multiple scenarios under consideration,” Fox News said in a statement Wednesday. Since Carlson was ousted in late April, Fox News has filled his hour with “Fox News Tonight,” an opinion show that relies on a rotating array of hosts. Lawrence Jones, Brian Kilmeade and Kayleigh McEnany are among those who have filled the seat for a week.

Fox News issued the comment in the wake of The Drudge Report posting a plan it said could be underway: moving Sean Hannity to 8 p.m.; switching Jesse Watters, who has fared well at 7 p.m., into the primetime schedule; and pushing Greg Gutfeld, who hosts a late-night-styled 11 p.m. program, into the primetime mix as well.

Such a move would have significant ramifications that would not dovetail with recent Fox News strategy. Gutfeld’s 11 p.m. program has been a break-out success with the network’s viewers, and has extended the outlet’s opinion block from 7 p.m. to midnight. Watters’ show at 7 has also been considered successful. Watters is also more right-leaning than others on the roster and he got his start making appearances at 8 p.m. on Bill O’Reilly’s show, making him seem a natural fit. But people familiar with Fox News say executives have suggested that Watters is doing well in the 7 p.m. hour he began anchoring in 2022 and that they could be loath to move him.

There would also be a question about Laura Ingraham, who has led Fox’s 10 p.m. hour since launching her program, “The Ingraham Angle,” in the fall of 2017.

Moving Hannity to 8, meanwhile, would put the veteran host in a different hour for the third time during his time with Fox News. He has previously anchored both the 9 and 10 slots. In recent months, Fox News has paired Hannity with a live, in-studio crowd, adding new elements to a tenure that has lasted since Fox News launched in 1996, when Hannity was paired with left-leaning co-anchor Alan Colmes.

Just last week, Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of Fox News corporate parent Fox Corp., indicated that the company saw no reason to change the network’s current model in primetime. “There’s no change to our programming strategy at Fox News. It’s obviously a successful strategy,” he told investors during a call to discuss the company’s most recent earnings report.

Making such jigsaw pieces fit together is left to not only Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, but primetime head Meade Cooper. In a different era, the Fox News primetime grid was inviolate. The network schedule was largely set in stone, with O’Reilly, Hannity and Greta Van Susteren holding forth weeknight after weeknight.

In 2013, that all changed, with Megyn Kelly joining the evening lineup at 9 p.m., moving Hannity to 10 and Van Susteren to early evenings. By 2017, Fox News had to rebuild with Kelly exiting for an ill-fated stint at NBC News and O’Reilly ousted following claims of sexual harassment and settlements paid to accusers. Carlson got a 9 p.m. slot in 2017. He moved an hour earlier after O’Reilly’s exit. No matter the changes, however, Fox News has managed to hold on to its significant viewership lead over CNN and MSNBC.

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