Fox News revamps prime-time lineup after Tucker Carlson ouster and ratings drop

Fox News' new prime-time line-up: Laura Ingraham at 7 p.m. Eastern, followed by Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfeld.
(Fox News)
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Rocked by the loss of its top-rated opinion host Tucker Carlson, Fox News has overhauled its prime-time lineup in an effort to reverse its recent ratings declines.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned conservative news channel announced that Jesse Watters — who has hosted a 7 p.m. Eastern program since Jan. 2021 — will move to the 8 p.m. slot previously held by Carlson. Watters will remain a co-host on “The Five.”

Fox News is also moving Greg Gutfeld’s talk show “Gutfeld!” an hour earlier, to 10 p.m. Eastern. The program is often the most watched show on the network among the 25-to-54 age group coveted by advertisers.


The program - which has been touted as conservative-leaning late night comedy alternative - can potentially attract more viewers at an earlier hour.

Laura Ingraham, the conservative host who has held the 10 p.m. Eastern slot, moves to 7 p.m. Sean Hannity’s nightly program remains at 9 p.m. Eastern. Fox News @ Night, the newscast currently airing at midnight, will move to 11 p.m. Eastern.

The new lineup takes effect July 17.

Scheduling moves are rare on the top-rated cable news channel and were prompted by the sudden dismissal of Carlson, which came just days after Fox News reached a $787.5-million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s false statements about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Carlson, an influential right-wing voice whose inflammatory comments about race and immigration made him a magnet for controversy, was pushed out amid the legal issues facing Fox News.

The host and the network are being sued by a former producer who alleges she was subjected to a hostile work environment while employed on Carlson’s program. Evidence in the Dominion case showed Carlson making derogatory remarks about Fox News colleagues and management.

But since Carlson’s departure, Fox News has seen a dramatic decline in the 8 p.m. hour, losing half of the 3 million viewers who were tuning in nightly. The loss has hurt the rest of the Fox News line-up, even though it remains ahead of its top competitors CNN and MSNBC.


Tucker Carlson’s last program was Friday, Fox News said. His ouster is probably related to a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former producer.

April 24, 2023

Watters, 44, has long been popular among Fox News viewers. “The Five,” a round-table program where he holds the center chair, is the network’s most-watched show, and his 7 p.m. Eastern program draws around 2 million viewers.

He got his start on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, where he did ambush interviews of figures targeted by the host who departed in 2017. Watters often plays his role as provocateur with tongue in cheek and is prone to making outrageous statements.

Two men sitting across from each other and speaking at a news desk
Sean Penn, left, and Sean Hannity on “Hannity.” The nightly program remains at 9 p.m. Eastern.
(Fox News Channel)

In late 2021, Watters made incendiary comments about Dr. Anthony Fauci at Turning Point USA’s Americafest, a right-wing conference. He used violent language when telling audience members they should confront the infectious disease expert with questions about the origins of the coronavirus.

“Now you go in for the kill shot,” said Watters, according to a video clip of his appearance. “The kill shot with an ambush, deadly, because he doesn’t see it coming. This is when you say, ‘Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world.’”

Rivera, whose career as a TV journalist and host has spanned 50 years, first joined Fox News in 2001. His last appearance on ‘The Five’ is June 30.

June 21, 2023

In describing the impact of such a confrontation, Watters said, “Boom! He is dead! He is dead! He’s done!”


The network stood by Watters after the remarks were denounced by Fauci and other critics. “It’s more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci,” a Fox News statement said at the time.

Following Carlson’s departure, Fox News tried a number of hosts in the 8 p.m. Eastern hour, but none approached the ratings that Watters attracted at 7 p.m. Even with the declines, the network has kept its hold on first place in the ratings.

Fox News has a history of replacing hosts who leave the network. The media industry expected a downturn after O’Reilly was ousted over sexual harassment allegations. But Carlson, a cable news journeyman when he arrived, pumped up his rhetoric and became a polarizing star.

Carlson continues to get paid by Fox News, which can keep him off the air through his contract which runs through 2024. He has relaunched his program on Twitter, which prompted Fox News to send a cease and desist letter saying he is in violation of his deal which pays him more than $15 million annually.