Bill O’Reilly cuts back his schedule

Bill O’Reilly’s future with Fox News may still be unclear, but the star of the channel’s prime time line up — and the host with its with the highest ratings — has quietly made one major change recently: he is now hosting four days a week, instead of five.

The 67-year-old O’Reilly has only hosted his program twice on Friday nights over the last five months. And a person familiar with the matter said a new Friday-night spinoff of O’Reilly’s show called “Friday Factor” had been planned but not yet announced, with a rotating group of hosts filling his Friday slot.

For months now, guest hosts — among them Eric Bolling, Jesse Watters, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier — have been filling in for O’Reilly on his show’s Friday evening broadcasts. Since mid-November, O’Reilly has only hosted last Friday and Inauguration Day in January. In the months prior to the election, O’Reilly was also often absent from the Friday broadcasts. Bolling and Watters have been the most frequent hosts on Friday nights and would be part of the rotating “Friday Factor” hosts, the person familiar with the arrangement said.

More recently, the Friday shows are sometimes called an “O’Reilly Factor Special” with titles like “The Trump Agenda” or “President Trump: The First Month.” Other times they’re just normal “O’Reilly Factor” episodes with guest hosts.

A Fox spokesperson said that “Friday Factor” has actually been in place for the past few weeks in the television listings. But viewers tuning in for the past three months of Friday nights wouldn’t see any sign of the new name or show. The opening introduction and logo are the same as when O’Reilly hosts, and the guest hosts all say they are sitting in for Bill O’Reilly, or that he’s out on assignment.

The Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to follow up questions about whether there will be further changes to the Friday evening broadcast to distinguish it from “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Also of note to Fox watchers this week: O’Reilly is on vacation while controversy swirls over allegations of sexual harassment against the host. A large number of advertisers have pulled their commercials from the show.

With O’Reilly out, the network chose a woman — Dana Perino — as the first fill-in host. The Fox spokesperson said the guest hosts will rotate while O’Reilly is out on what they said was a pre-planned vacation. Perino, a former White House spokeswoman in the George W. Bush administration, is often called on to guest host for other shows.

The spokesperson did not respond to specific questions about why Perino was chosen as the guest host, though a Business Insider article published on Wednesday said she’s a “emerging as the go-to host for Fox News.”

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