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O'Reilly's departure creates new challenges for Fox

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/19/2017 By TALI ARBEL, AP Business Writer
A security guard looks out of the the News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Bill O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press A security guard looks out of the the News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Bill O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — With its biggest star departing in another blowup over sexual harassment, Fox News faces some big challenges. It now has to show that it can hang on to its loyal army of conservative viewers, improve its working culture, and still continue to make big bucks for its corporate parent.

A pedestrian walks past the News Corp. headquarters building in New York displaying posters featuring Fox News Channel personalities including Bill O'Reilly, right, on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press A pedestrian walks past the News Corp. headquarters building in New York displaying posters featuring Fox News Channel personalities including Bill O'Reilly, right, on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The company said Wednesday that it had parted ways with longtime host Bill O'Reilly after a "thorough and careful review of allegations against him." Dozens of advertisers ditched "The O'Reilly Factor" after a New York Times report detailed $13 million in payouts to five women over his alleged unpleasant behavior. (O'Reilly denied the accusations.) Another female Fox contributor subsequently came forward with a new complaint against the Fox host, and there are reports of more. Women protested outside Fox News headquarters.

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2015 file photo, host Bill O'Reilly of "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Channel, poses for photos in the set in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2015 file photo, host Bill O'Reilly of "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Channel, poses for photos in the set in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

O'Reilly's departure is the second major blow for the right-leaning news network in nine months. Fox's longtime CEO Roger Ailes resigned abruptly amid similar sexual harassment charges last July. Its leading female star, Megyn Kelly, decamped for NBC in January.

A poster featuring Bill O'Reilly is displayed at the News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Bill O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press A poster featuring Bill O'Reilly is displayed at the News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Bill O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The network's parent company, entertainment giant 21st Century Fox, insisted that Fox News will weather the current storm just fine, noting in a statement the "strength of its talent bench" and expressing "full confidence that the network will continue to be a powerhouse in cable news."

FILE - This Oct. 13, 2012 file photo shows Fox News commentator and author Bill O'Reilly at the Comedy Central "Night Of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together For Autism Programs" at the Beacon Theatre in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday, April 19, 2017, that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invsion/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This Oct. 13, 2012 file photo shows Fox News commentator and author Bill O'Reilly at the Comedy Central "Night Of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together For Autism Programs" at the Beacon Theatre in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday, April 19, 2017, that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invsion/AP, File)

MONEY MACHINE

FILE - In this April 6, 2016 file photo, Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter's "35 Most Powerful People in Media" celebration in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday, April 19, 2017, that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this April 6, 2016 file photo, Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter's "35 Most Powerful People in Media" celebration in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel following reports that five women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. 21st Century Fox issued a statement Wednesday, April 19, 2017, that "after a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

That certainly could happen, though it probably won't be easy.

Some analysts believe that James and Lachlan Murdoch — the sons of 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch — made the call to change the Ailesian culture at the network and to cement their control following his departure.

"Getting rid of the old guard is a way to do that," said Dan Cassino, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the author of "Fox News & American Politics: How One Channel Shapes American Politics & Society."

But O'Reilly has been on Fox News for more than two decades. "The O'Reilly Factor" has generated a huge ad bonanza for Fox, one that yielded more than $178 million in 2015. It's the top-rated show on the No. 1 cable network — one that, according to the investment bank Nomura's estimates, accounts for fully 20 percent of profits at 21st Century Fox.

Now, the top ratings for O'Reilly's time slot — and Fox's other prime-time shows — could be at risk. "He's been the linchpin" of the lineup, said Jane Hall, an American University professor and former Fox contributor, who noted that it will take a while to see whether his loyal audience sticks with O'Reilly's replacement. That will be Tucker Carlson, whose show is moving to the 8 p.m. slot on Fox.

Others say that O'Reilly's firing won't be a sticking point for most Fox viewers. "When we look at data, at what programs people report watching, you just don't find people who watch Bill O'Reilly and nothing else on Fox," Cassino said.

Fox also has a big financial safety cushion in the fees cable companies pay the network, which dwarf its ad revenue, according to Nomura media analyst Anthony DiClemente. Even if there's some disruption in ad rates or spots, he said, there's a "massive backstop" in those payments, which are long-term deals.

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