Less than two years into a reported $3 million, multi-year deal, shock jock Don Imus and Fox Business Network appear to be going their separate ways. Hired to get the new cable station headlines and draw in viewers, Whispers hears that the network considers his mission accomplished and is considering putting a business show into his early morning time slot. [See a slide show of the 10 best cities to find a job.]
For the record, Fox would not indicate what is being discussed. But Kevin Magee, executive vice president for Fox Business, told Whispers, "Imus has helped us enormously and he has awhile to go on his contract."
When Imus joined Fox in October 2009, he had still had several years on a contract with RFD TV, which, like Fox, paid to have him sit in their studio and simulcast his ABC radio show. Both cable companies used Imus to raise their profile. For Fox, it was a tremendous success having Imus on board early because it gave the station cache and had new viewers looking for the channel on their cable and satellite boxes. [Check out the month's best political cartoons.]
It was also a big get for Fox Business boss Neil Cavuto who told Whispers at the time of the hire that he has always been a fan of Imus. In fact, he said that the hiring cemented a friendship formed over years of on-air interviews. And it's those interviews that have made the unusual marriage work. Cavuto said at the time, "He really does conduct some remarkable interviews, and he gets a lot out of people in an off-guard moment." He also said that Imus "is unconventional. But to the folks who say, 'What does he bring to business?' I say he's pretty savvy on the business stuff and he talks to a lot of people on this stuff and he cuts to the chase, which is what our Fox mantra is all about." [See our collection of Washington Whispers political caricatures.]
At Fox, Imus had a fancy studio and remained popular but hasn't been as big of a draw for the show that follows his, Varney & Co. starting at 9:20 a.m., that was hoped for. According to some reports, Stuart Varney has even had bigger audiences than Imus.
The reconsideration of Imus's show comes as the network appears to be on the verge of profitability, according to industry sources. A Fox Business spokeswoman said "we cannot confirm" those reports.
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.