Shepherd Smith joined Fox News at its inception in 1996 and worked there for 23 years. He drew high ratings at the channel and even matching up with network anchors like CBS’s Dan Rather and ABC’s Peter Jennings as the most-trusted news anchor. Smith became a star, and in 2007 signed a three-year contract for $7-$8 million per year.
But Smith, now 56, grew disgruntled with the network and stunned viewers in October 2019 when he announced he was leaving. Smith didn’t reappear for nearly a year, finally returning to news Sept. 30 at CNBC.
So far, things have not been going well. He averaged 322,000 total viewers in his first week of prime-time shows on the Comcast-owned business network, according to Nielsen Media Research. Smith’s Sept. 30 debut brought in 373,000 viewers nine days ago, but the numbers immediately began to drop after that. On Oct. 1, Smith’s show had 321,000 viewers, followed by 331,000 on Oct. 2, 266,000 on Oct. 5, and 321,000 on Wednesday.
Those numbers are a fraction of the viewers he drew with a mid-afternoon show on Fox, which drew an average of 1.3 million per day, Variety reported.
Compare those numbers to the ratings Fox pulls in prime time. Sean Hannity ended the third quarter as the highest-rated show in cable news, with an average audience of 4.454 million viewers. “Overall, Fox News had four of the top five highest-rated shows in cable news, with Hannity followed by Tucker Carlson Tonight (4.351 million viewers), The Five (3.483 million viewers), and The Ingraham Angle (3.430 million viewers). MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show finished in fifth place overall as the highest-rated non-FNC program, with an average total audience of 3.302 million viewers,” The Hill reported.
At CNBC, Smith serves as the anchor of “The News with Shepard Smith, a primetime general news program that airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. ET. According to a CNBC press release about the show before it debuted, the program aims “to go beyond financial markets, ‘to tell rich, deeply reported stories across the entire landscape of global news.'”
Smith, who at Fox anchored “Shepard Smith Reporting,” “The Fox Report” and “Studio B,” said at the time: “I am honored to continue to pursue the truth, both for CNBC’s loyal viewers and for those who have been following my reporting for decades in good times and in bad.”
When Smith left, “Fox News insiders told CNN that the Trump-friendly atmosphere at the network had ‘got to be too much,’ prompting him to negotiate an exit from his long-term contract starting in September,” The Hill reported.
President Trump has blasted Smith, needling him upon his departure from Fox. “Is he leaving because of bad ratings?” Trump wrote on Twitter in October 2019. “He had terrible ratings,” Trump added of Smith. “He had the worst ratings on Fox.” Trump also said he’d rather watch “fake news” CNN than Smith’s broadcast.
When he signed with CNBC in July, Smith said “In my more than 30 years in journalism, there has never been a better or more critical time to launch a non-partisan, fact-based evening newscast.”
“From the ongoing pandemic to the election and the economy, the mission of this program is to cover the most important news of the day with depth and clarity. Each night, we will be bold, we will be direct and we will deliver the truth to our viewers,” Smith said.
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