On Tuesday, Megyn Kelly confirmed on Twitter and later on her show that she is indeed exiting Fox News after 12 years and signing a multi-year contract with NBC News.
So the question for CEO Rupert Murdoch and his sons is who will replace her in prime time in the space formerly occupied by The Kelly File? Murdoch previously suggested that FNC had a deep bench of talent if Megyn opted to head elsewhere. Although a quick decision is possible, Fox may go with a series of fill-ins before it makes a final decision.
“The consensus seems to be that the Murdochs will choose a woman to fill her 9 p.m. time slot,” New York magazine claimed, adding that Kelly’s successor “will be a pro-Trump conservative.”
Although Kelly’s Fox News contract runs until July, FNC – which reportedly offered her a $20 million-$25 million a year deal roughly in parity with Bill O’Reilly — apparently is releasing her virtually immediately, with her last show scheduled for Friday evening. Kelly apparently Settle[d] for More, as her memoir is called, by possibly taking less money from NBC but gaining a more favorable work schedule.
Kelly was wooed by several networks and previously told her fans not to believe any of the rumors until they heard from her directly, which she did in a tweet with the heading “an ending, and a new beginning.”
NBC offered a multi-platform opportunity which includes a daytime talk show, a Sunday evening news magazine along the lines of 60 Minutes, and anchoring duties on big news events, the New York Times reported.
In a statement, Rupert Murdoch thanked her for her contributions and wished her and her family all the best, The Hill reported.
Megyn Kelly’s move to NBC is somewhat odd at least from the outside in that broadcast network market share is shrinking (unless the deal also includes MSNBC, which is no world-beater in the ratings either), and daytime talk shows have a less-than-stellar success rate, as Variety explained.
“And yet, Kelly’s current halo does not necessarily mean she can also triumph over splintered broadcast-TV audiences and tired formats. Those are hurdles she and NBC will have to leap over in the months to come…Success in these new ventures is not guaranteed. Other famous anchors have tried their hand at daytime TV in the recent past, and met with middling success…Launching a new, sustainable newsmagazine has also been tricky in recent years…Simply put, NBC and Kelly will join forces to counter prevailing viewership trends.”
New York magazine expressed similar reservations.
“Kelly’s departure raises a new series of questions about how transferrable her talents are and where Fox News is headed now that the network has lost its biggest star and one of its few hosts with serious mainstream credibility. For Kelly, the jump from a primetime perch at Fox to a multifaceted role at NBC carries a high degree of risk. She’ll be giving up the most loyal audience in cable news for new set of platforms that she’ll have to largely build herself.”
The Kelly File originated as a legal-oriented weekly segment on The O’Reilly Factor. There has been speculation that Bill O’Reilly and former corporate lawyer Kelly, 46, who previously anchored in the afternoon, have had a falling out since then, a possible clash of egos that would not be unprecedented in the television universe.
Viewers may have noticed that at The Factor nightly signoff, O’Reilly no longer says “Miss Megyn is next,” for whatever that may or may not mean. Also, in November, O’Reilly chided Kelly on CBS This Morning (where he was promoting his own new book) for disloyalty for discussing the Roger Ailes scandal in her tome.
According to New York magazine, “Her relationships with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in particular had completely broken down.” O’Reilly and Hannity are far more supportive of President-elect Trump than Megyn Kelly, who featured a lot of anti-Trump content on her show, which prompted conservatives to celebrate her announced departure on social media, The Hill detailed.
Kelly’s NBC gig will allow her to spend more time with her three kids, which was one of her stated desires. Her novelist husband is a stay-at-home dad. “In the short term, that looks like it will be possible. But if she has a daily show and a Sunday night prime-time magazine, she is still going to be very busy,” Baltimore Sun media columnist and Kelly fan David Zurawik noted, adding that things didn’t work out so well despite the hoopla when Katie Couric joined CBS News.
“The biggest immediate story is the way Kelly’s loss threatens the dominance Fox News has enjoyed for years in prime time,” he warned.
Some Megyn Kelly critics contend that when she famously challenged Donald Trump during the August 2015 GOP presidential debate about his past disparaging comments about women (“only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump famously quipped), it was more about careerism and auditioning for another network than a legitimate journalistic inquiry. That exchange caused Trump to harbor bitter feelings toward her which he famously manifested on Twitter and in various interviews.
“Since that debate, however, conservative hosts and writers — along with online sites like Breitbart and the Drudge Report — have mocked the attorney-turned-cable-news star, often characterizing her as self-absorbed and referring to her as ‘ME-gyn’ or ‘Me-Again,'” The Hill added.
Megyn Kelly foes also expect her to gravitate more in the liberal direction after she arrives at NBC, similar to what has allegedly occurred with Alisyn Camerota whose point of view seems to have changed significantly since making the move from Fox to CNN.
Megyn Kelly finally met with the then-candidate secretly in Trump Tower on April 13, which then led to a TV interview on Megyn Kelly Presents that aired on the Fox broadcast network on May 17. The prime-time special disappointed in the ratings, however, which apparently didn’t discourage NBC from hiring her nonetheless. In December, Kelly told TMZ that things are all good between her and Trump.
Who will it be?
Assuming Fox News goes with a traditional one-anchor news and commentary show, who is the favorite to replace the departing star? Recall that when Glenn Beck bolted Fox News, the network replaced him with a “temporary” roundtable called The Five, which quickly evolved into a permanent ratings hit at 5 p.m. Eastern.
As of year-end 2016, Fox News is the most-watched channel on basic cable and the fifth most watched overall on TV after the broadcast networks, TV Newser chronicled.
Against that high-stakes backdrop, Fox will presumably seek a big personality or personalities for the 9 p.m. flagship show to try to head off any inroads from its competitors in the cable news space.
During the 2016 Christmas break, both Sandra Smith and Shannon Bream have been sitting in for Megyn Kelly, so they are both viable candidates to anchor the successor program to The Kelly File. “Smith’s version of The Kelly File averaged 2.4 million viewers from December 27-29, while the rival networks combined for 1.7 million viewers,” The Wrap pointed out.
Tucker Carlson has been scoring big in the ratings at 7 p.m., so shifting him to 9 might be a possibility. It would seem unlikely that Sean Hannity would move back to nine from the 10 p.m. slot (where he was bumped about three years ago to make room for The Kelly File).
Other internal candidates to replace Megyn Kelly likely include Trish Reagan, Martha MacCallum, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was under consideration as Trump’s press secretary. Radio talk show host and frequent Fox contributor Laura Ingraham could be in the mix, as well as someone from the outside.
“Another option floated by some insiders is a tag-team approach, drawing on Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the co-hosts of the network’s popular 5 p.m. show The Five,” Politico theorized.
Had ex-Outnumbered co-host Andrea Tantaros not found herself in a bitter legal battle with Fox, she’d also have a good chance to move up.
Another possibility perhaps could be conservative firebrand Tomi Lahren, whose The Blaze contract is up this year. In October, Lahren – who has a huge social media following — told the Dallas Morning News that she is “too controversial” for FNC, and “wants to start her own media empire,” however.
Who do you think should or will replace Megyn Kelly on the Fox News Channel?
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]