Any doubts that Fox News would lose a competitive edge in the 5 p.m. slot are one step closer to being silenced. The timeslot has long been known as a ratings challenge for cable news outlets until Glenn Beck convinced key demographics to set their DVRs for later viewing. AIM has questioned whether a roundtable format could do the same. We now see three reasons why this experiment continues to show early success.
Panel Make-up: Rather than seeking to replace one dynamic personality with another, Fox chose pundit types who could be easily interchangeable to meet scheduling demands and news cycles. Anchoring the panel with Bob Beckel and Greg Gutfeld sent an early signal to viewers and competitors that the network would target the blue chip 25-54 demo with prominent liberal and center-right viewpoints. Although the original promotion offered a variety of panelists, Fox now lists eight hosts on a rotating basis. Consistency has proven to be the key here.
Debate Format: One thing a viewer will find in limited amounts is scripted dialog. With the exception of rants by Greg Gutfeld and segment openings, the show is basically five people talking about the news of the day, granting the viewer eavesdropping privileges. Confrontation for the sake of confrontation is not sought, but emotional outbursts are fairly common. In fact, the explicit language being uttered on live television (typically from Bob Beckel) promotes the show to a younger audience. Their use of BlackBerrys and other smart phones only adds to the spontaneity of the discussion.
Panel discussions of the news have typically been limited to purely political or entertainment subjects. We have not seen in some time a show that is so comfortable with a range of topics.
Respecting the Viewer: Both producers and panelists for THE FIVE clearly respect the audience’s intelligence. People do not come to the show looking for hard news sound bites or split screen gamesmanship. Fox has found a format that summarizes the news for the more informed, before plunging in to prime time editorializing. THE FIVE could see a rapid ratings drop the moment it begins to preach on the issues.
The Monday Nielsen ratings  draw a clear, objective picture of just how successful the show has been so far. Compared to CNN, MSNBC and Headline News, THE FIVE beats all competitors by an average 2 to 1 margin in the key demo and overall.
Fox’s THE FIVE offers a perfect microcosm of how the network typically presents itself: blatant conservative and liberal viewpoints with a touch of sex appeal thrown in.