The key Murdoch family company, 21st Century Fox, releases its first-quarter financial results early tomorrow morning, Sydney time, and top of the list of analyst questions will be “What’s happening to Fox News?”. This doesn’t presuppose insider information on the financials of Fox News, Fox’s single most profitable and important business, but a lot has been happening at Fox recently and investors will want to know how the “kids” — James and Lachlan Murdoch — are handling them. Roger Ailes was boned in the quarter and sent packing with a US$40 million payoff after the pressure of sexual harassment claims against him proved too much for the Murdochs and many others. Fox settled a claim from the chief complainant, Gretchen Carlson, for a reported US$20 million.
There are also stories that the Fox News star host Megyn Kelly wants more than US$20 million a year to remain at Fox (all these amounts sound a lot, but this is a business with more than US$15 billion a year in revenues), so they won’t have an impact. The changes at Fox News have started worrying US investors, and the latest news overnight Tuesday will worry them even more. After 15 years of ruling the roost, Fox News has lost out to rival CNN in the US cable ratings in the key 25 to 54 demographic. For the first time since 2001 CNN beat Fox News in daytime and primetime ratings in the most important age group in TV. Fox and Fox News have ignored the win by CNN, which rode the strong news cycle last month to surf past Fox. Fox has been the home of conservatives in the US and for more than a year was a solid supporter of Donald Trump (Fox’s Sean Hannity still is his biggest booster in the US media), but CNN has been sceptical of Trump, is considered to be more “small L liberal” and backed itself as a result (it is owned by Time Warner, which is trying to merge with AT&T to create America’s biggest media company).