Instead of calming nervous advertisers, Sean Hannity's wild attacks on his critics will likely prompt more brands to flee his show.
Flailing wildly on his program Monday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity desperately tried to slow the advertising exodus that has gripped his program in recent days.
Specifically, Hannity launched a 20-minute tirade against Media Matters, which has been leading a campaign to contact Hannity’s advertisers to urge them to stop supporting his toxic program.
The latest push to persuade advertisers came after Hannity suggested some of Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s accusers in Alabama might be lying about their claims he pursued them sexually when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. Hannity also suggested some women might be lying in order to make money off their claims.
The campaign is working, as Hannity has lost nearly a dozen advertisers, including Hebrew National, ReddiWip, Marie Callender’s, Volvo, HelloFresh, Hubble Contacts, UNTUCKit, Volvo, the Society for Human Resource Management, Cadillac, and E-Trade.
News that Keurig was withdrawing its sponsorship of the program outraged Hannity fans, who launched their own bizarre "boycott," by destroying their $120 Keurig coffee makers in protest.
Note that Fox saw its advertising revenue plummet 17 percent in September, compared to September 2016 — and that was before its primetime host started defending an alleged child molester.
The current exodus has prompted the host to push the panic button. One way he’s doing that is lashing out at Media Matters President Angelo Carusone:
Sean Hannity's Fox News show right now. Apparently, I have been exposed. (Of Note: I am gay. And, my husband/partner of 14 years is Jewish) pic.twitter.com/LFaG4HxC2V
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) November 14, 2017
Over the weekend, Hannity retweeted a fake Carusone Twitter account and a message claiming that Carusone had been all wrong about Hannity:
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) November 12, 2017
Losing a dozen or so advertisers might now seem like that big of a deal. But here’s why Hannity’s clearly in panic mode and why he’s punching wildly: History shows that once advertisers start to flee offensive, right-wing media outlets, they never come back.
Just ask Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and the publisher at Breitbart. All three outlets experienced an advertiser exodus after activists pointed out to advertisers that they were associating with hateful, fringe content.
And Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, and Breitbart never recovered, economically. Beck and O’Reilly lost their shows on Fox News, and Limbaugh has far fewer advertisers today, as does Breitbart. Indeed, the white nationalist website is propped up by deep-pocketed donors. (Robert Mercer has reportedly given Breitbart “at least $10 million.”)
What happens is that when the advertising exodus hits critical mass, Fox News can no longer monetize Hannity’s program. If dozens of advertisers demand that their commercials not run during his program, Fox News ends up running fewer spots during his show, or has to offer up deep discounts to advertisers to entice them into the 9 pm hour.
Again, if there were a short-term situation, Fox News could weather the controversy, lose some revenue during Hannity’s program, and be confident that advertisers would return to his show. But they won’t return. Once brands and ad agencies decide a specific program is too toxic to be associated with, those brands virtually never come back. Why would they?
Meanwhile, it's unlikely that Hannity’s decision to lob wild, hateful allegations against Media Matters is going to calm many nervous advertisers. In fact, it will likely do the opposite.
Look for more advertisers to flee this week.