UPDATED with her last day at FNC and Rupert Murdoch statement: Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly will join NBC News, it was announced today by Andrew Lack, Chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group. Friday will be her last day at FNC.
“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,” Fox News Exec Chairman chief Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.
As part of the multi-year agreement, Kelly will anchor a new one hour daytime program that she will develop with the news division. The show will air weekdays at a time TBA. She also will anchor a new Sunday evening newsmagazine show for NBC News and will contribute to NBC’s breaking news coverage as well as the network’s political and special events coverage.
When Kelly co-hosted Disney’s Kelly Ripa talk show Live With Kelly the morning after Trump’s historic election, she churned up record ratings for that daytime talker, placing it in the No. 1 spot for syndicated programs, ahead of Dr. Phil and Ellen. Kelly brought Ripa her biggest crowd since her former co-host Michael Strahan absconded to Good Morning America.
In today’s announcement, Lack called Kelly “an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career” and has “demonstrated tremendous skill and poise,” adding, “we’re lucky to have her.”
Kelly issued a statement in which she credited Fox News with changing her life and that she has been “incredibly enriched for the experiences” she has had there.
“While I will greatly miss my colleagues at Fox, I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge. I remain deeply grateful to Fox News; to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch; and especially to all of the FNC viewers, who have taught me so much about what really matters. More to come soon.”
In its announcement, NBC News noted that Kelly consistently has delivered top ratings. The veteran newswoman, who joined FNC in 2004 as a Washington-based correspondent, has anchored Fox News Channel’s The Kelly File, which is the No. 2-rated show in all of cable news, behind FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor. In today’s announcement, NBC News also called her show the No. 1 news program in overall viewers on cable news, apparently agreeing with Kelly that Bill O’Reilly’s show is an opinion program, not a news program.
But Kelly became a household name in 2015 during her run-in with Celebrity Apprentice star-turned-45th President of the United States Donald Trump. Moderating the first GOP debate, she asked him at the start to defend his demeaning descriptions of Rosie O’Donnell and other women over the years. Although more than 24 million people watched Trump respond smoothly with an O’Donnell crack that played enormously well in the hall, the notoriously thin-skinned real estate magnate unleashed what he calls his “beautiful Twitter account” in an attack of Kelly. He also took to CNN the next night, telling Don Lemon — whose show, not coincidentally, competes for viewers in Kelly’s 9 PM time slot — that when she’d asked the question there was “blood coming out of her – wherever.”
News of the deal triggered much chatter across the TV news landscape. Among the hot topics is where NBC would slot Kelly’s new daytime show and whether it might mean bad news for Days of Our Lives, Access Hollywood Live or taking over a local news slot. Daytime is very tough racket; among the TV news stars who failed to click in that genre are Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira, the former of whom observed, after her Disney-distributed daytime show failed, that daytime audiences did not want serious topics.
And it’s unclear when Kelly will start at NBC News, given that her Fox News Channel contract expires in the summer, but she would be working as a lame duck in promotion of a competitor. Fox News had worked aggressively to hang on to its primetime star, offering her a new contract at more than $20M per year. On the same day Disney announced Kelly would co-host Ripa’s talk show the morning after the presidential election, Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch gave an interview to his Wall Street Journal to publicly proclaim Kelly’s importance to his news network and his hopes of getting her under contract “very soon.” The article included some flattering money-is-no-object language, and a “Megan Kelly Seeks Salary North Of $20 Million In Contract Talks With Fox News ” headline. But, also in that article, Murdoch sent Kelly a message with the remark, “We have a deep bench of talent, many of whom would give their right arm for her” time slot.
In November, speculation about Kelly’s future really revved up, as she showcased herself across the TV landscape plugging her book, Settle for More, as news audiences wait to see whether she would accept a change of assignment.
Talk of an exit gained a lot of traction last month when FNC appointed her The Kelly File EP Tom Lowell to be VP and managing editor of news at Fox News. Lowell has a long history with Kelly, so a lot was read into that announcement, what with Kelly taking so long to tell Fox News if she’d stick around or jump ship.
Kelly tried to squelch speculation, which included Matt Drudge writing she “may” move to CNN, tweeting “Don’t believe a thing u hear unless it comes from me, period.”