This was posted Tuesday, January 3, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
The New York Times broke news today that Fox News evening host Megyn Kelly is going to NBC News, citing multiple unnamed sources.
She confirmed the news a little while later on Twitter:
This is a major loss for Fox News, which also saw the departure of Greta Van Susteren in the fall after Fox News chief Roger Ailes left amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Fox News later in the day released this message from the boss Rupert Murdoch:
“We thank Megyn Kelly for her 12 years of contributions to FOX News. We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best.”
Kelly’s 9 p.m. show is the second most popular program on the network behind only Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor” at 8. (UPDATE: On Thursday, Fox News quickly named Tucker Carlson as the new 9 p.m. host after a brief but impactful stint at 7 p.m. where Martha MacCallum will take over for now.)
The Times said Kelly is being given “a triple role in which she will host her own daytime news and discussion program, anchor an in-depth Sunday night news show and take regular part in the network’s special political programming and other big-event coverage.” It’s unclear if she will have any role with MSNBC.
The story said her contract is not up until the summer but her final day on Fox News is scheduled for Friday. She has said in interviews and in her latest book that salary is not her only factor in determining her next career move. She said she needs a new schedule that would enable her to spend more time with her children and expand on topics beyond politics.
The Wall Street Journal reported she is collecting $15 million during the final year of her contract.
Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York, dubbed this a “brilliant career move” on Kelly’s part.
“She has done well on cable but it’s just not on the same level as NBC” in terms of potential audience size, he said.
As for NBC, it’s a potentially great get. “Charismatic anchors have been in short and even vanishing supply on traditional networks,” Levinson said.
Rich Hanley, an associate journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Ct., said NBC has to use her prodigious skills properly.
“Her reputation is that of an authentic personality,” he wrote in an email. “As the age of great farces ends and authenticity is in demand, she can become the identity of NBC News in terms of prime-time specials and breaking news if the network is sharp enough to recognize that she has the capacity to do that and not put her in infotainment hell evident in the network’s ‘Dateline’-type programming.”
Broadcast networks have been losing clout over the past couple of decades so stepping away from 2016’s No. 1 cable network is a risk for Kelly.
Eric Schiffer, chairman/CEO of Patriarch Group, a leading private equity firm in technology and media, said this move gives Kelly new creative opportunities. But he said she could potentially bomb given her Fox affiliation and her confrontation with Donald Trump during and after the debates in 2015: “She’s been branded a Republican and liberals may cringe when they see her irrespective of what her politics could be. And strong Trump supporters wanted to put her head on a stick over the past six to nine months.”
Michael Castengera, a University of Georgia journalism teacher and consultant to broadcast news stations, said Kelly will certainly gain curious eyeballs early on but she’ll have to earn viewers long term. And he posed this existential question: “Does the news content matter or is it a matter of who presents it?”
Castengenra doesn’t think her departure will hurt Fox News. “Quite frankly, Fox News has carved out a very strong niche. Its hardcore fans will watch it and love it. Megyn’s name isn’t as big as the Fox News name. An analogy is a football team that loses a star player. If you’ve got good backups, you should be fine. Fox has a lot of good backups.”