Fox News chief Roger Ailes extends contract

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - After spending millions in recent months to lock up key talent including Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, Fox News founding chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has signed a five-year deal that will keep him at the top-rated cable news channel until he’s at least 73.

Financial terms of the agreement weren’t immediately disclosed, but Ailes’ current salary is $5 million a year, not including bonuses and other compensation that earned him $19 million in 2008 and $10.9 million in 2007, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents. Ailes was three years into a deal signed when he took over the chairmanship of Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television; he’s also in charge of MyNetworkTV and Fox Business Network.

“It was really that I just enjoy the work, and I don’t have any hobbies,” Ailes told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday. “So what the hell am I going to do?”

It’s full speed ahead at Fox News, which Ailes thinks has a bright future. To be sure, the News Corp-owned cable news channel has fared better than its competitors since this month’s election, retaining more of its audience.

“What it really talks about is fair and balanced news, which I think will get high ratings,” Ailes said. “We have finally convinced, after 10 years, even some skeptical members of the press that that’s exactly what we do here.”

He said it’s a mistake to look at Fox News Channel’s primetime opinion shows and say they represent the channel’s journalism.

“It’s not. Those are our opinion shows, which by the way are the highest-rated opinion shows in cable news,” Ailes said. “But our news is fair and balanced, and that is driving them crazy.” He pointed to a Pew Research Center study that lauded Fox News for providing all sides to an issue.

“Fox News Channel is playing a very important role in journalism in the 21st century,” Ailes said. “We set the standard.”

He added that the success of the Fox News Channel has made other cable channels better.

“They’re challenging (in the ratings); they’re trying to do better,” Ailes said. “They’re trying to copy what we do. I don’t blame them; I think that’s fine. That should make us better. I don’t mind. Particularly, you know, CNN has really done a great job.”

Having a tougher time is the Fox stations group, which like all local TV is challenging because of advertising.

“It’s all advertising-based, and nobody’s buying any cars right now,” Ailes said. “That’s really where it is, and a lot of financial advertisers have pulled back. This business is a cyclical business. The business will come back at some point.”

Until then, Ailes said the division is managing its costs and improving its margins.

Fox Business Network has been up and down since its launch more than a year ago but has had its share of big business news with the topsy-turvy markets, coverage of the bailout and other issues.

“A lot of people are looking for economic news, so they’re sampling Fox Business, which helps us,” Ailes said. “On the other hand, it’s sort of tough, but we’re selling.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter