Fox’s profit machine seen sturdy enough to endure O’Reilly exit

Fox’s profit machine seen sturdy enough to endure O’Reilly exit

Don’t worry about Fox. It’ll be okay without Bill O’Reilly.

The country’s most-watched cable network is doing so well that the departure of the star of “The O’Reilly Factor” isn’t likely to be a huge financial blow. That’s even though the show was the biggest draw on Fox News, which has been 21st Century Fox’s most profitable channel, bringing in what one estimate puts at $200 million annually in advertising revenue.

“The growth in the network is overwhelming any advertiser issues” that will crop up now that O’Reilly is out and Tucker Carlson is stepping into the prime-time slot, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research LLC who has a buy rating on the stock. O’Reilly took his leave Wednesday afternoon, and Fox shares fell 0.9 percent to $30.39 at the close in New York.

Fox doesn’t break out how much any one channel or program contributes to the bottom line. S&P Global Inc.’s Kagan research unit estimates that Fox News was responsible for about one-fourth of the company’s 2016 operating income, which was $6.6 billion.

O’Reilly’s exit will probably cost just a couple of percentage points in ad sales, before factoring in the network’s expected growth over the next year, Wieser said.

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