Breaking Down Fox News 7 pm Opening as Trey Gowdy is Set to Return

Six weeks ago, Fox News announced that seven personalities would try out for a week at a time on the network's new 7 p.m. program, Fox News Primetime, and that a permanent would be named later. OutKick has learned and Fox News has confirmed that the rotation will continue for at least the week of March 8, when Trey Gowdy returns.

The timetable for a permanent host to be named is unclear as the process involves FNC deciding upon and agreeing to terms and finalizing the contract with the talent. While Gowdy returning first does not mean he will be the ultimate choice, it was noticed both internally and externally that Gowdy recorded the highest total week of viewership with 2 million. Gowdy, Brian Kilmeade, Maria Bartiromo, Mark Steyn, and Rachel Campos-Duffy have all tested. Katie Pavlich is in this week, and Lawrence Jones will take over next week. 

Comparing each host's ratings is not as easy as lining each up in Excel, sorting from highest to lowest, and seeing who is most popular. Several factors go into a Monday-Friday average, including the news cycle, the lead-in viewership, and head-to-head competition. That said, if Gowdy's second-week average remains higher than the other six, the indication will be that he, as a personality, was a factor in the spike. The other angle is the 25-54 demo, which in many cases is more important. Gowdy had the highest total viewership but lost to Kilmeade's 347,000 average in the coveted demo. Overall, the five-week average of the new program is up 8% in total viewers and 16% in the 25-54 demo from December.

I hold my initial reaction that Fox News made a mistake when it announced the six hosts who would follow Kilmeade in the rotation. As influential as Fox News' brand is, individual star power moves the needle, it separates from the pack. Fox News has thrived for decades, in part, due to its top current and former stars  — Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, and now Tucker Carlson. FNC has to continue producing new stars and should be in the process of trying to find the next big name to go along with Carlson right now. Of the current roster, Fox News has four personalities who have that potential — Jesse Watters, Will Cain, Pete Hegseth, and Dan Bongino (a current contributor), yet none were added to the rotation. A 7 p.m. show, leading into traditional primetime hours, is a plausible spot to find that next star.

Of the seven hosts who were named, Kilmeade came in with the strongest case: he has a 20-plus year relationship with Fox News viewers. He's likable, quick on his feet, versatile, and is the best interviewer of the seven. 

Fox News has no need to rush this decision. And while giving all seven another week isn't needed — though still possible — rotating the top three or four again would be beneficial. Trey Gowdy is up first to make his case, again. 

Comment below on who Fox News should name as the permanent host of Fox News Primetime:

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Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.