Advertisers back away from talk shows

Jeremy Hobson Aug 24, 2009

Advertisers back away from talk shows

Jeremy Hobson Aug 24, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Talk show host Glenn Beck returns to the airwaves tonight on the Fox News Channel. He’s been on vacation. But while he’s been away, a lot of his advertisers have left him. The mass exodus stems from Beck’s comment last month that President Obama is a racist. It didn’t take long for protests to get started, some of which demanded companies stop buying ad time on his show. Walmart, CVS and Sprint have done just that. And others are taking it to a whole new level. They want out of the cable news talk show echo-chamber altogether. Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports.

JEREMY HOBSON: If you’ve been out of the cable news loop recently, here’s just a taste of what you’re missing.

BILL O’REILLY: Come on you coward!

CHRIS MATTHEWS: And you’re carrying a God (BLEEP) damn gun at a presidential event.

LOU DOBBS: And I have to apologize professor, but I think you’re a complete idiot.

OK, maybe I cherry-picked the soundbites a little, but that’s just the part of these talk shows that advertisers are afraid of. Ira Berger is director of national broadcasting with the ad firm, The Richards Group.

IRA BERGER: I think advertisers from the beginning of time are not interested in controversy, they’re interested in selling their product.

And, he says, the advertisers don’t lose much by backing away from the prime-time cable news shows.

BERGER: I can’t think of very many clients that are that dependent on a news audience. I mean you can reach those people in other places.

Arizona State University Professor Aaron Brown knows the world of TV news well. He used to anchor a show on CNN. He says, for advertisers…

AARON BROWN: You know the only thing worse than being on a program that’s controversial is being on a program that no one watches.

Brown says, traditionally, advertisers have flocked to news to get a little cache. But he says…

BROWN: We’re not talking about news shows here, we’re talking about talk shows, and they have never been considered to be classy.

So, what if the advertisers all pull out? Here’s Dan Kennedy who teaches journalism at Northeastern.

DAN KENNEDY: Maybe they’ll try news, wouldn’t that be an innovation?

Nah, too obvious.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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