Lessons From Tucker Carlson

May 30, 2023 | Finconomics 101, No Bull Economics

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There are many theories about why Fox booted Tucker Carlson, but it may be a very simple reason which can instruct everyone involved in the consumer retail segment. 

Commentary

  • It’s no secret that Fox News recently terminated its most popular prime-time personality, Tucker Carlson. This has left many observers scratching their heads about why Fox would walk away from its most successful rating driver. Was it really all about Fox losing its Dominion Voting lawsuit?
  • We posit that there is a larger, big-picture trend at work that made Fox’s separation from Carlson inevitable. Our explanation begins with an ongoing move by big consumer brands away from traditional TV advertising. They are finding that the younger demo, which they are so interested in pursuing, no longer watch TV the way their parents did. While they may watch live sports, they are certainly not watching re-runs of the Golden Girls on TV (or anywhere else for that matter).
  • Media is moving to new distribution platforms on the Internet & that is where the brands must fish if they are going to catch any Gen Zers. Resultantly, TV ad budgets are shrinking, and we find that the brands which continue to fish on legacy TV are in search of an older demo that continues to tune in at night. This is why we see so many of those incredibly bothersome pharma TV commercials telling the old folks why their products could kill or maim them in a thousand different ways.
  • With a shrinking ad revenue pie for legacy media players like Fox News, it is no longer so easy to justify paying someone like Tucker $25MM/year (or whatever he makes), especially when his anti-establishment views so easily offended, well, the establishment (the remaining legacy TV advertisers). Tucker had to go & Fox was willing to pay him to sit home just long enough to wait for him to become an obsolete threat to their viewership market share.
  • But the story does not end there & we see that Fox ended up driving Tucker into Elon Musk’s open arms at Twitter. As usual, Elon is 5 steps ahead of the legacy players & saw something of value in Twitter that no one else noticed – content producers and influencers like Tucker need a new platform with scale to hawk their wares. While Elon can provide personalities like Tucker with tremendous media reach, it is now up to the creators to figure out for themselves how to monetize their content. Elon is not concerned about how the creators do this (through paid subscriptions or whatever) because he is going to take his share of their top line like a franchisor collecting his royalty. Brilliant!
  • What are the implications for consumer retail segment players? Primarily, there must be a recognition that the Boomers are going extinct (no offense intended, but it is a reality) along with their media consumption habits. This is probably a good thing for marketers, as legacy media & advertising are incredibly expensive (it’s not cheap to subsidize Tucker or Lebron for that matter). Winners in the consumer retail space will be marketers who can adapt to not only changing media consumption habits but also to the changing tastes, thoughts & opinions of its diverse customer base (making room for everyone, following in the footsteps of Elon’s Twitter). Successful marketers will learn how to broaden their digital reach from left to right without diluting their own core brand equity. Not easy, but it can be done.           
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