Once upon a time NBC snatched Megyn Kelly from her 12-year role at Fox News, agreed to pay her $69 million over there years, and then set her loose to do her “thing” on a now-canceled Sunday night show meant to compete with 60 Minutes, along with the 9 a.m. hour of the network’s iconic morning show – rebranding it “Megyn Kelly Today.”
This was pretty much the result; an awkward dance around the corpse of Kelly’s once-legitimate career, and the terrible ratings that accompany a radioactive personality:
Before Trump, Megyn Kelly was set to become the Walter Cronkite of our time. Now she’s a dancing hooker. pic.twitter.com/Ym3GD6NWxx
— ALEX FOR ???????? KANYE 2024 (@alexwitoslawski) October 20, 2017
As it turns out, fewer viewers continue to watch the Today show once Kelly’s segment begins.
Breaking down overall viewership between pre-Kelly Today and, today’s Today, we see an 18% dropoff overall, with women in the 25-54 age demographic feeling particularly sour on Kelly.
Kelly’s first gig with NBC was a poorly received “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin – attracting only six million viewers, around half of the show’s usual audience.
Weeks later, only 3.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Kelly try and skewer Infowars boss Alex Jones in the same time slow, only to come in behind a 60 Minutes rerun and America’s Funniest Home Videos. Ouch!
Kelly’s Sunday night debacle was pulled before it finished its scheduled run of episodes, with the network saying that she will host “occasional prime-time specials as her schedule permits,” according to the WSJ.
“I don’t think I fully appreciated how much work the morning show was going to be and how many hours it was going to require of me,” Ms. Kelly said, adding that she thought occasional shows outside of Today would be a “good compromise.”
Kelly orphaned herself during the 2016 election – while her conservative views on the “war on Christmas,” Black Lives Matter and Gay Rights ingratiated her with the right, Kelly’s anti-Trump rhetoric turned off Fox viewers. As a result, nobody really likes her. – especially the 25-54 female demographic.
She won some fans outside of the channel’s conservative base when she challenged then-presidential candidate Donald Trump over his statements about women during a live debate. But she has struggled to parlay that attention into a compelling TV personality who resonates with daytime viewers, bouncing between segments on cooking, domestic abuse and concussions. –WSJ
Local NBC affiliates aren’t too happy with Kelly’s sagging ratings either. “At WAVE-TV, the affiliate station in Louisville, Ky., the audience for “Megyn Kelly Today” is more than 40% smaller than what the previous incarnation of that hour was averaging a year ago,” reports the Journal. “We’re certainly not happy with the Nielsen numbers,” said Ken Selvaggi, vice president and general manager of WAVE-TV.
Meanwhile, the Today show costs over $30 million a year, leaving many wondering how it can remain profitable. Some close to the show say it makes less than its pre-Kelly predecessor, however an NBC spokeswoman told the Journal that Kelly’s show is profitable.
Kelly received a ratings boost during the #MeToo movement which emanated from the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal.
Ms. Kelly received praise from critics and a lift in the ratings when she leaned into the #MeToo movement, featuring women on her show who had made accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, journalist Mark Halperin and others. Ms. Kelly has also mentioned her own experiences at Fox News, where she alleged harassment by Roger Ailes, the late CEO of the network, who denied the charge. –WSJ
Kelly spent the next several weeks focusing on sexual harassment – keeping Weinstein’s name in the headlines, while also shining a spotlight on former Today host Matt Lauer, who was accused by several staffers of sexual misconduct – which many at NBC thought was a “cheap shot” at Lauer and a ratings stunt.
“I understand that,” Ms. Kelly said. “They loved him. They’d been working with him for decades, and it is hard when you care about the person who is at the center of these stories—trust me, I know.”
Megyn then got into a massive argument with Jane Fonda – who took offense to Kelly asking about her plastic surgery during an interview about a new movie with Robert Redford. Fonda “made jokes and mocked Ms. Kelly several times after that,” reports the Journal – prompting Kelly to launch a “Fox News-style attack” on Fonda.
“This is a woman who is synonymous with outrage. Look at her treatment of our military during the Vietnam War. Many of our veterans still call her ‘Hanoi Jane’ thanks to her radio broadcasts, which attempted to shame American troops,” Ms. Kelly said on her show in January.
— Megyn Kelly TODAY (@MegynTODAY) January 22, 2018
Kelly’s “Hanoi Jane” rant, as it has become known, was seen by Today insiders as an extreme overreaction, but Megyn doesn’t see it that way. “I’m all for turning the other cheek but sometimes one has to stand up for one’s self,” she said.