O’Reilly Advertisers Risk Reputation, But Viewers Remain

By TALI ARBEL, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — While dozens of brands have said they’re pulling ads from Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” because of harassment allegations against its host, others remain to court the biggest audience on cable television news.

An ad boycott against Bill O’Reilly quickly took shape following The New York Times story last weekend that five women had been paid a total of $13 million to settle their accusations of sexual misconduct or abusive behavior against him. On Thursday, more than 40 companies had said they weren’t running commercials on O’Reilly’s show, according to CNN, which has maintained a count.

One of the companies that hasn’t abandoned O’Reilly is Angie’s List. The company has a contract with Fox that doesn’t specify which program its ads will air on, and has no plans to change its strategy, said Cheryl Reed, spokeswoman for the company that offers crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses.

“We place ads across a wide spectrum of venues intending to reach as many viewers/listeners/ readers as possible without taking a position on the viewpoints of the venues themselves,” Reed said Wednesday.

It’s a large audience to bypass, and there’s little evidence that the allegations and the $13 million in settlements paid out to five women have impacted O’Reilly’s viewership. His show drew 3.76 million viewers on Monday and 3.65 million on Tuesday, the Nielsen company said. On average, his show drew 3.98 million viewers nightly for the first three months of 2017, his largest quarterly average in the show’s two-decade history.

Advertisers who stay on O’Reilly’s show risk aligning themselves with “the mistreatment of women in the workplace,” said Mimi Chakravorti, a brand strategy expert at the Landor consulting firm. “O’Reilly’s brand is taking a big hit here. The people that are staying will have to be OK with the decision they’re making. They will inherently be associated with that brand.”

She said that advertisers that stay on the show could trigger consumers to boycott their products or services.

At companies that have stuck by O’Reilly, there have no doubt been conference room discussions, said Kelly O’Keefe, a professor of brand management at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Sometimes these things are bandwagons that more and more people jump on,” O’Keefe said. “If other advertisers are leaving and you’re staying it makes you look worse…I think you’ll see all mainstream advertisers abandon this program.”

Pillow maker MyPillow said Tuesday that while it doesn’t condone sexual harassment, it has ad deal similar to Angie’s List where Fox decides the show in which the ads are placed. On Thursday, the company said it had requested that none appear on O’Reilly’s show.

Some companies have issued statements on their decisions to pull their ads, while others have done so quietly. Online TV company Hulu, which is part-owned by Fox’s parent company 21st Century Fox, pulled its ads from “The O’Reilly Factor” earlier this week without comment.

IHG, the company behind Crowne Plaza hotels, said its ads unintentionally aired on O’Reilly’s show. The company normally doesn’t advertise on shows that do political commentary, and it has suspended all of its Fox ads until it can be sure none are shown on O’Reilly’s show, a spokesman said.
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Associated Press writer David Bauder contributed to this report.

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