Megyn Kelly, NBC Reach Agreement on ExitVariety — Brian Steinberg
Megyn Kelly’s NBC program ended in October, but she has now truly signed off from the network.
The colorful anchor and NBCUniversal have officially come to terms on her exit from the company, ending a frenetic chapter in TV-industry history and starting, perhaps, a new round of speculation about what she might do next.
NBC in October cancelled her morning talk program, “Megyn Kelly Today” after she opened one broadcast that month with a discussion of Halloween costumes and wearing blackface that drew criticism not only on social media, but also from NBC News colleagues including Al Roker and Craig Melvin. The decision brought to an end a fizzling experiment that matched the former Fox News anchor known for an outsized on-screen presence to a format best known for lighter fare.
Since that time, NBC News has aired a more traditional third hour of “Today,” anchored by “Today” personalities such as Craig Melvin, Dylan Dreyer, Al Roker, and Sheinelle Jones.
Kelly leaves NBCUniversal free to talk to other companies about employment, according to people familiar with the agreement. And she is believed to be walking away from the deal with the amount she was promised when first joined. Various reports have put her annual salary at anywhere from $17 million to something in the low $20-million range. Her three-year deal was previously expected to end in early 2020.
NBCU and Kelly had high hopes when the company announced at the start of 2017 that she would join from Fox News. Here was a Fox News personality who covered politics but never hewed to a single political bent. Her tangles with a then-candidate Donald Trump while at Fox raised her profile further, as did a memoir, “Settle for More,” and stories about how she handled Roger Ailes, the one-time Fox News chief who was ousted after allegations of sexual harassment were investigated. Ailes denied the claims before he died.
Despite the best of intentions, however, Kelly had a rocky tenure at the Peacock. Her newsmagazine “Sunday With Megyn Kelly,” didn’t gain enough momentum to keep it on the air. She shifted her focus to the 9 a.m. hour in September 2017.
Her first few weeks on the air were choppy as she had uncomfortable on-air exchanges with guests including Jane Fonda and the cast of “Will & Grace.” But as the #MeToo movement began to gain steam, Kelly found a niche in telling the stories of victims of harassment and sexual abuse.
In the end, Kelly’s relationship with executives at NBCU eroded, and her morning show was never able to outmatch the ratings of a more traditional 9 a.m. hour of “Today.”
Daytime TV has proven increasingly difficult to crack. Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper And Meredith Vieira are among the popular news personalities who have tried their hand at a daytime talk show in recent years. Success can be phenomenal for those who break through – just ask Oprah Winfrey or Ellen Degeneres – but it has become elusive as viewers have more entertainment options and as more households have more than one member holding down a job.
NBCU has made made big talent bets in the past without being rewarded. The company lured Josh Elliott from ABC’s “Good Morning America” to NBC Sports in 2014, but the alliance proved ill-fated. Elliott would leave the company without finding a particular niche, and worked for CBS News for a period of time afterwards.