Fox News Channel has been dominating the cable ratings charts in 2020, and few of the network’s anchors have been more dominant in their time slots than Harris Faulkner, who hosts daily news shows Outnumbered and Outnumbered Overtime from her New Jersey home. The 15-year Fox News veteran’s Outnumbered Overtime, in particular, has outperformed both its broadcast and cable competition in the 1-2 p.m. slot since last July, averaging more than 1.7 million viewers. Faulkner has also hosted several town hall specials over the past few months, focusing on such topics as education and mental health.
Faulkner spoke with Multichannel News about the success of both Outnumbered and Outnumbered Overtime, as well as the challenges of delivering live, daily programming amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s an edited transcript.
MCN: Is it harder to do your shows at home than from the Fox News studios?
Harris Faulkner: Right now, it doesn’t matter where you are — you are [at home] with millions of other people and there is no escaping it. I’m constantly on the line with my producers, so there’s really no delineation between home and work.
MCN: Have you experienced technical difficulties at home?
HF: I have never seen technology at work like what’s going on here. We’re capable of doing so much that I’m amazed; I can talk to anyone, anywhere. The viewers also get it — it doesn’t have to be perfect, and that’s a good thing. [Two weeks ago] I was interviewing [House] Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and we were getting into it. I asked my big question but couldn’t hear the answer. At that point I had to make a decision — I had him stand by while we broke for a commercial. We came back and we had fixed it, but to go off the air so suddenly like that was certainly different. It’s been pretty impressive that that’s the only major technical glitch that we’ve had.
MCN: Outnumbered Overtime is dominating its timeslot. What has been the secret sauce of the show’s success?
HF: Part of it is relevance. Before [COVID-19] was a pandemic, we were trying to get our arms around this and I tried to be relevant from the get-go. I have always pitched to the audience breaking news and being straight with people with a smile — there’s no reason why you have to be caustic and unapproachable. I do think that people know I won’t tolerate misinformation or stuff that they can’t use. So I think it’s the combination of that approach, along with having a good barometer of which way the wind is blowing.
MCN: You’ve broadened out the series by developing Town Hall specials exploring current event topics. How do those specials build the Outnumbered Overtime brand?
HF: Sometimes what people get from the news can feel like a lecture, and that’s OK when you need information. What I’m trying to provide is an edification environment for people that doesn’t feel overbearing. I think context, perspective and action planning are really important -- town halls can do that for you.
MCN: Are you surprised by the strong performance of cable news during a time when people are looking for more escapist entertainment programming?
HF: I think it’s more important than it ever has been. There are some incidents that grab us in big numbers on television, like the Super Bowl, and other things that have unified us as a country, like 9/11. I’m not saying that there haven’t been other huge times in our history and there will be others, but for this era there’s nothing that really compares to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has destroyed economies like wildfire, and so in this environment the category of news is relevant. As long as people still feel like having knowledge is power in their lives, they will watch news right now.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.