Tucker Carlson benefits from Fox turmoil

With upheaval in any organization comes opportunity, and no one in cable news has benefited more from chaos than Tucker Carlson of Fox News.  

Nine months ago, the 47-year-old Carlson was a co-host of Fox’s weekend morning show, “Fox & Friends.”

Since then, he’s jumped from weekend mornings to prime time, occupying three time slots in just four months.

Carlson first took over for Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m. 

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Ratings jumped considerably, but even more importantly from Fox News’s point of view was that Carlson created buzz through viral videos of his debate segments on an almost-nightly basis. 

When Megyn Kelly left Fox for NBC at the beginning of the year, the network again turned to Carlson.

On cue, Carlson increased ratings at what had been the second most watched cable news show, all the while continuing to build his brand through viral segments. 

Replacing Bill O'Reilly, who has been the most-watched cable news host for the past 15 years, will be the biggest challenge yet for Carlson.

Kelly had only been in prime time for three years and didn't own nearly the audience loyalty of O'Reilly, who had been in the same time slot for two decades. 

Still, some observers think Carlson will meet the new challenge just as he did the previous ones.

“Carlson has taken on the kinds of news agenda subjects that O'Reilly viewers should appreciate,” said Jeff McCall, a professor of communication at DePauw University and a former periodic guest on “The O'Reilly Factor.”

“He has also shown he can take on combative guests and hold their feet to the fire. That should also make O'Reilly devotees happy,” said McCall, who believes there were be little ratings drop-off when Carlson takes over.

David Shuster, a former reporter at Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, is also bullish on Carlson.

“Tucker has done well in every hour Fox News has placed him in. And for good reason: He's smart, engaging, witty and fun to watch, even if you don't agree with him,” says Shuster, currently the anchor and managing editor of i24 News, which launched in the U.S. in February.  

“I'm not sure anybody at Fox could pull Bill O'Reilly-like numbers — the guy built up his audience over 20 years,” he cautions. “But Tucker will dominate CNN and MSNBC.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is surging in the ratings, enjoying her best numbers since 2008.

But Shuster said he thinks “The Five,” the roundtable show that will be her new competition with Carlson’s move to 8 p.m., can be a winner for Fox.

“The conservative opinion audience isn't suddenly going to watch CNN and MSNBC,” he said.

Carlson’s debut show on Monday night includes an interview with TV personality and author Caitlyn Jenner.