The least-shocking, long-rumored departure in cable news seems that it is about to happen. The still-dominant Fox News Channel has been through a lot of changes in the past several months, most notably saying good-bye to the man who made it a ratings powerhouse. Now, according to The New York Times it appears that FNC is losing one of its biggest stars:
Megyn Kelly, who arrived at Fox News 12 years ago as a television news neophyte but rose to become one of its two biggest stars, has decided to leave the network to take on a broad new role at NBC News for an undisclosed amount, people briefed on the negotiations said on Tuesday.
The NBC News chairman, Andrew Lack, wooed Ms. Kelly away from Fox News by offering her 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.
The move will herald a seismic shift in the cable news landscape, where Ms. Kelly had become the second-most watched host — after Bill O’Reilly of Fox News — and often helped define the national political debate, especially over the last year as Donald J. Trump regularly attacked her, at times in viciously personal terms.
Ms. Kelly’s departure would upend Fox News’s vaunted prime-time lineup and inject a new dose of tumult just a few months after the departure of the network’s powerful founding chairman, Roger Ailes, who was ousted after several women made allegations that he sexually harassed them.
Kelly’s departure isn’t as surprising as her destination is. After she was seen hanging around with the CNN folks one night at the DNC, much of the speculation about her eventual move focused on whether Jeff Zucker would throw a big contract at her and make her the star of his network. There was no concrete evidence that this was in play, but it was a general assumption people were making.
Despite the fact that the media landscape is ever-shifting and the older forms seem to be waning in influence, there is still quite a bit of difference between a cable gig and a network gig, especially in terms of audience and money. The frequently maligned “dinosaur media” still has much deeper pockets and can easily lure away cable stars.
What will be most interesting here is seeing what FNC does with Kelly’s time slot. It will be only the second important programming decision made in the post-Ailes era, and it will be by far the most important. With its continued ratings supremacy and the recent move to give Tucker Carlson his own show (a brilliant idea), it appears that Fox News has a system in place that isn’t entirely dependent on its architect for success.