Why is anyone surprised no one is watching Shep?
To be completely honest, I completely forgot about Shepard Smith. The former Fox News anchor apparently has a show on CNBC, though, and things reportedly aren’t going well. In short, his show is a bust.
To no one’s surprise. Except the CNBC execs who somehow imagined he was worth sinking millions into.
Whether it’s a poor time slot, behind-the-scenes squabbles, an outdated news format, a slower post-Trump news cycle, or just a once-popular anchor taking his frustrations out on staffers, CNBC insiders have a lot of reasons for why Shepard Smith’s show has failed to capture major ratings. But one thing many agree on is that it has not met the bosses’ expectations.
In the nine months since he went on the air for NBCUniversal’s financial news network, Smith has put out a slickly produced, no-nonsense evening news show that prizes on-the-ground reporting over the talking-head panel fights that define many of his cable news competitors.
But The News with Shepard Smith, the brainchild of CNBC chairman Mark Hoffman, has struggled to attract the millions of viewers who watched Smith every day for years at Fox News, or to produce the fiery breakout viral moments that defined the later part of his tenure at the conservative cable-news giant. And those struggles have seemingly fostered some turmoil within the network and the show’s staff. This story is based on interviews with nine current and former CNBC staffers.
. . . . CNBC had high hopes for the new program. The network built its star a new studio at CNBC headquarters in New Jersey and shelled out more money to build a separate one at Smith’s palatial Hamptons home owing to the pandemic, according to the people familiar with the situation. The show staffed up with some of Smith’s former Fox News colleagues, as well as CNBC veterans, almost all of whom worked quickly to launch the show before the 2020 election in the hopes of capitalizing on some of the increased news viewership around the historic race.
But the viewers never seemed to show up.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the show averaged just 197,000 total viewers in June, losing a third of its viewers since the show’s peak in February, which saw an average of 296,000 nightly viewers. The show is currently the seventh-highest rated program on CNBC and 11th in the key demographic of viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 years old.
As a wise and insightful person I know (*cough* Professor Jacobson *cough*) noted, Shep “was successful because he was on Fox, Fox wasn’t successful because of him.” This observation reminded me of McLean Stevenson’s post-M*A*S*H reflection: “The mistake [in leaving the show] was that I thought everybody in America loved McLean Stevenson. That was not the case. Everybody loved Henry Blake. So if you go and do The McLean Stevenson Show, nobody cares about McLean Stevenson.”
The problem with Shep, of course, is that no one loved Shep on Fox; his ratings came from his being on Fox and hosting the only somewhat straight news show during a time slot the woke media was busy being woke (thus turning off all viewers who weren’t woke, approximately 70% of the population).
The Daily Beast, apparently unintentionally, pinpoints the problem in a bizarre paragraph that undermines its own argument (a feat that is actually both difficult to accomplish if you are thinking clearly and very easy if you are a partisan hack).
For one, much of Smith’s allure in the final years of his Fox News tenure may have come from his status as seemingly the only daily hard-news anchor at the network, where he often provided scathing fact-checks of his conservative colleagues and seemed alien to the network’s editorial focus on right-wing outrages of the day. Without that tension, the veteran news anchor blends in with a crowded field of consummate news reporters.
Another Daily Beast article illustrates this Shep “going rogue” during his “straight news show” and providing “scathing fact-checks of his conservative colleagues.”
While the rest of his network bends over backward to appease a Republican president who religiously views their programming—and an audience that views “mainstream media” as a personal affront—Shepard Smith and his midday news show, appropriately titled Shepard Smith Reporting, has, in some sense, gone rogue.
It’s no surprise, given Shep’s long history of unfiltered, un-Fox-like on-air banter—“We are America! We do not fucking torture!” he famously shouted during a 2009 digital show—but in an era where the president and his most devoted followers constantly screech about “fake news” while praising Fox News’ loyalty to Trump, Smith stuck out like a sore thumb in 2017.
Days before Trump took office, Smith came to the defense of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who engaged in a shouting match with Trump during an early press conference. The then-president-elect refused to answer the reporter’s questions about the Russia dossier, repeatedly calling CNN “fake news.”
“Though we at Fox News cannot confirm CNN’s report,” Smith snarked from his studio, “it is our observation that its correspondents followed journalistic standards and that neither they nor any other journalists should be subjected to belittling and delegitimizing by the president-elect of the United States.”
Several weeks later, in February, Smith couldn’t contain his frustration with a Trump press conference, in which the president dodged multiple questions about Russian government’s election interference and alleged ties to his campaign.
While the general Fox News tone on Russian meddling, at that point, had been either a dismissive “nothing to see here” or calling it a “hoax” or even a “false flag,” Smith wanted answers.
“It’s crazy what we’re watching every day,” Smith said following a presser that yielded no information, but contained more of the usual Trump combativeness. “It’s absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous, throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we’re some kind of fools for asking the question.”
One cannot be a “hard-news anchor” and simultaneously be lauded for providing “scathing fact-checks of his conservative colleagues.” You are either hard-news or a partisan hack; you can’t be both. The “tension” Shep’s hackery presented as “hard news” produced was intentional, and it turned off Fox viewers who, quite rightly, deemed him a leftist hack.
Professor Jacobson noted as much in his post about Shep leaving Fox:
Shepard Smith just announced that he is resigning from Fox News effective immediately.
I can’t say I’m surprised.
Shep became unwatchable, barely containing his Trump hatred. I tuned in the other day, a rare occurrence, but turned the channel to the *more reasonable* MSNBC — at least there you know what you are getting. My few minutes of Shep was non-stop snark and snide comments.
Shep also has teamed with Andrew Napolitano to promote impeachment and to attack Tucker Carlson and other evening lineup stars.
That NBC saw a cash cow in this shameless grifter is confounding. Fox viewers hated Shep, so let’s spend millions to . . . attract Fox viewers? To cater to the left? How exactly? What demographic was the goal? Did they really think that Shep was why viewers watched Fox? That Fox viewers would follow Shep to any outlet? Seriously?
I had completely forgotten about Shep until I read this Daily Beast piece, and even now, I am nonplussed. Why is anyone surprised no one is watching Shep? Do a reality series entitled, “Everyone Hates Shep,” and I may watch . . . unless it’s on Disney, Netflix, or Amazon Prime.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.