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Fox News relies on existing stable of hosts to boost historically low prime-time ratings

Jesse Watters will take over Tucker Carlson's former spot in a Fox News prime-time shakeup. Walters is pictured here at FOX Studios on September 27, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

New York (CNN) — Fox News on Monday unveiled a revamped prime-time lineup, naming a new 8 p.m. host to fill the void left by Tucker Carlson’s firing and shuffling its biggest stars around to boost sagging ratings as viewers rebel to protest the popular host’s dismissal.

The right-wing network announced that Laura Ingraham will helm its 7 p.m. hour; Jesse Watters will move to 8 p.m.; Sean Hannity will remain at 9 p.m.; Greg Gutfeld will slide an hour earlier to 10 p.m.; and Trace Gallagher will anchor 11 p.m.

The new schedule — made up almost entirely of hosts who have grown in popularity by feeding their loyal conservative audience a mixture of right-wing talking points, outrage and misinformation — will take effect on July 17.

As a result of the changes announced Monday, staffers who formerly worked on Carlson’s show were told that their roles had been eliminated, a person familiar with the matter said. The staffers will be given enhanced severance packages if they remain at the company through July 14 and can apply for open roles, the person said.

The reconfiguring of Fox News’ all-important evening lineup comes as the network, which remains the top-rated channel across the cable dial, sees historically low ratings following the ouster of Carlson, the right-wing extremist who had become the single highest-rated host on cable. Fox never explained the reason for Carlson’s abrupt firing, which came in the days following the network’s historic settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over the channel’s airing of lies in the wake of the 2020 election.

After Carlson’s ouster, Fox News not only saw its ratings plummet in the 8 p.m. hour, but also across its entire prime-time lineup. On some occasions, Fox News’ audience dwindled to its lowest levels since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Some of the network’s viewers have fled to Newsmax, the smaller right-wing talk channel that features former Fox News anchor Eric Bolling as its 8 p.m. host.

In recent weeks, Fox News experimented with a rotating cast of potential replacements for Carlson in the 8 p.m. hour, but none of the guest hosts boosted the channel’s fallen ratings in a significant way.

Instead of trying to fill the hole left by Carlson with a new host, Fox News is betting on its stable of already popular show hosts to stabilize the ship in prime-time. The network is hoping that by moving Ingraham to 7 p.m. and Watters to 8 p.m., viewers will keep the channel turned on.

Watters, who has hosted the network’s 7 p.m. show since January 2022, has quickly risen to become one of Fox News’ highest-rated hosts. Since Carlson’s ouster, Watters has often been the most-watched single personality on the network, even besting longtime host Hannity.

The appointment to the 8 pm time slot represents a remarkable ascension for him at Fox News. Watters started as a production assistant at the right-wing network, slowly working his way through the ranks to become an on-camera personality.

He first gained fame as Bill O’Reilly’s sidekick who would travel across the country filming man on the street segments and conducting ambush-style interviews for the one-time cable king.

Now, years later, Watters will return to the 8 pm hour as its host.