Fox News has lined up six rotating hosts for its new 7 p.m. opinion program aimed at feeding the appetite of conservative viewers in the hour.
The new show called "Fox News Primetime" launches tonight with "Fox & Friends" morning show co-host Brian Kilmeade, as previously announced. The Times has learned that other names lined up to helm the program are "Sunday Morning Futures" host Maria Bartiromo and regular contributors to the network Katie Pavlich, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Mark Steyn and former congressman Trey Gowdy.
A Fox News representative confirmed the upcoming hosts.
The program is being launched as Fox News shakes up its lineup as it prepares to cover the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and the Republican Party in the post-Trump era.
Fox News is moving "The Story with Martha MacCallum," which has aired in the 7 p.m. hour since 2017, to 3 p.m. to make way for an opinion show that will be a more compatible lead-in for its conservative hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. MacCallum's program, which featured newsmaker interviews, was the time period ratings leader in 2020, but slipped to third behind CNN and MSNBC in recent weeks.
Fox News had its largest audience levels in its history in 2020, leading all of cable TV according to Nielsen. But the conservative-leaning network has fallen behind CNN and MSNBC since election day, as more viewers have tuned in to those networks to follow the transition of the new Democratic administration and the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol led by pro-Trump rioters.
Fox News is also seeing some of its viewers sample upstart right-wing TV outlet Newsmax. While the Newsmax audience is a fraction of what Fox News draws, the network does see a pronounced audience lift at 7 p.m. Eastern for its host Greg Kelly, who remains a rabid Trump defender even after the Capitol riots.
A Fox News representative had previously stated the program changes were under discussion since the early fall and are not a response to the recent ratings trends.
Fox News did have opinion programming in the 7 p.m. hour in 2016, when Carlson was first given a daily program. Carlson eventually moved to prime time after the departure of Bill O'Reilly and is now the network's most-watched host.
The Fox News research department's analysis of Nielsen data since election day shows the bulk of disaffected Fox News viewers — many of them Trump fans disappointed over the election results — have gone to entertainment programs and are taking a break from the news.
The hosts for "Fox News Primetime" are not permanent. But it's likely that whichever one catches on with the audience could get the job full time.
Bartiromo's inclusion on the host list indicates she could be moving to the network's opinion side. While she told the Times in an interview last month that she considers herself a news anchor, her Sunday program has a strong pro-Trump bent, especially in the weeks after the election when she gave the president's attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell free rein to spew falsehoods and conspiracy theories about election fraud.
Bartiromo was among the Fox News hosts forced to air a fact check disputing many of the president's lawyers' claims about voting software company Smartmatic, falsely stating it was involved in delivering Trump votes to Biden. Smartmatic is considering a defamation suit against Fox News and other conservative outlets over the matter.
Gowdy has been a Fox News contributor since 2018. A former federal prosecutor, he served in Congress from 2011 to 2019 and led the House sub-committee that investigated the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four people.
Campos-Duffy is a Fox News contributor and a former guest co-host of ABC's daytime talk program "The View." She got her start in TV as a cast member on the MTV reality show "The Real World."
Steyn is a conservative Canadian author who has appeared as a frequent guest and fill-in host for Carlson. He has also been a fill-in host for Rush Limbaugh's radio program.
Pavlich is a conservative blogger and has been a frequent commentator on Fox News programs since 2013.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.