So by now it's known by pretty much everyone everywhere that Megyn Kelly will be leaving Fox News and heading to, by any measure, greener pastures at NBC. Kelly is a bonafide star, certainly, so there's no doubt that her departure is bad news for Fox -- despite the network's peanut gallery bidding her good riddance for not being politically pure enough -- and exciting news for NBC, which has big plans for the former host of The Kelly File. At first glance, then, it seems like a no-brainer that NBC picks up Kelly, but the fact is that there are no guarantees that Kelly's success at Fox News will translate to even bigger success at the Peacock (and it would need to in order for the multi-million dollar poach to be worth it). What's more, Kelly's huge upcoming footprint at NBC could signal either really good or really, really bad things for the kind of content it's going to produce in the era of Trump.
Removing the controversy surrounding Megyn Kelly -- and there's a reason you rarely see Fox News stars go to any other networks: because they're not considered credible -- she's going to have to score bigger than she's ever scored before in the ratings to justify her paycheck. NBC News is reportedly planning on creating a daily vehicle for her, an hour-long news-talk type show that will run Monday-thru-Friday, as well as a new Sunday news show specifically for her. That's a hell of an investment in somebody who's admittedly popular at Fox News but who's unproven in broadcast. And to give you an idea the difference and how it needs to shake out, The Kelly File averages 2.5 million total viewers a night, which is boffo for a cable outlet but a drop in the bucket in broadcast. By comparison, The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt averages around eight million viewers a night.
Now this doesn't mean that Kelly has to hit those kinds of numbers for her shows -- and her -- to be considered a hit, but broadcast is a much different beast than cable. And, something else to keep in mind: Being a huge success on Fox News is a far, far different beast than being a huge success anywhere else. Fox News has a core audience of viewers who watch absolutely nothing else. They don't scan other networks or compare what Fox is saying to what other outlets are. They watch Fox. Period. Because that's their gospel and everyone else can't be trusted. Like it or not, despite her name and face recognition, the controversy of being Megyn Kelly, Fox News propagandist, isn't something you can fully separate from whatever she does next. Yeah, she scored some general political points by taking on Donald Trump, but who knows whether the broad NBC audience will fully embrace her.
The big question, though, is what putting Kelly front-and-center in its schedule and its political coverage says about the kind of news NBC is going to be doing for the next four years. Kelly is poised as no one else can be to take on the Trump administration, particularly now that she's not under the thumb of Fox News, which is destined to cheerlead Trump's antics for the foreseeable future. But if her persona on Fox News is to be believed, and wasn't simply smart opportunism, she wears her conservatism on her sleeve. So is NBC planning to try to bring more "conservative" voices under the tent to reflect the "new America?" You'd damn sure hope not, given that the last thing any serious news operation needs to do in response to Trump is roll over and bring aboard people who'll enable his lunacy and corruption. Now more than ever we need adversarial journalists in the mainstream, not the overall sentiment that all of this is normal.
It of course remains to be seen whether NBC's big gamble on Kelly pays off. The network is famous for getting really high on its big names only to screw them over publicly when it looks like things are starting to go south. Nobody does unnecessary internal melodrama like NBC, so for all we know Kelly may be walking into another inevitable 30 Rock clusterfuck. But Megyn Kelly has had it relatively easy up until now in terms of getting and keeping her audience. She had a network behind her that's legendary for its support of its stars and she had, for lack of a better term, a captive audience. Can she continue to bring in the numbers, the greater numbers, at a network that isn't Fox? Guess we'll find out soon enough.