The Wall Street Journal took a look at NBC’s bet last year to lure Megyn Kelly away from Fox News and found the network is struggling to justify the move.
Megyn Kelly was supposed to bring star power to NBC News and a bigger, broader audience of morning viewers to its “Today” show franchise.
Instead, the three-year, $69 million bet to woo Ms. Kelly from her conservative prime-time perch at Fox News is backfiring.
Since taking over the 9 a.m. hour of the lucrative morning show in September and rebranding it “Megyn Kelly Today,” Ms. Kelly has struggled to make the shift to daytime broadcast television, with its delicate balance of soft features and hard news. Her ratings declines and higher production costs have been a drag on a critical franchise for NBC.
Kelly’s show averages 2.4 million viewers per episode, down 18 percent from what the show averaged last year with Tamron Hall and Al Roker, and has dipped to as low as 1.9 million without the lift provided by the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in February.
The news is even bleaker in the key 25-54 demo where the ratings are off 28 percent since last year.
Despite the less than stellar ratings, NBC News chief Andy Lack defended Kelly.
“Megyn has continued to prove that she’s a tremendously skilled, hard-hitting journalist, who adds valuable insight and analysis to all she touches,” he said in a statement to the Journal.
Television news analyst Andrew Tyndall said Lack erred in signing Kelly to a fat contract.
“Andrew Lack made the mistake with Megyn Kelly [from the beginning] with the decision to hire her to an anachronistic celebrity contract in the mistaken belief that star quality could turn into ratings gold.”
Kelly said that the show is only six months old and that any show needs about a year to find its footing.
“I’m proud of the journalistic work we’ve been accomplishing. The ratings are important, there’s no question, but it’s not the only metric.”
But it’s a very important metric — especially the 25-54 demographic that advertisers watch closely.
According to Newser, at least one affiliate station is suffering from the ratings drop.
“We’re certainly not happy with the Nielsen numbers,” said Ken Selvaggi, vice president and general manager of WAVE-TV in Lousiville, Ky., where “Megyn Kelly Today” is off a whopping 40 percent from the previous year.
Not all the news is bad, as Kelly’s show received an Emmy nomination for the best informative talk show. Even winning an Emmy is unlikely to give the show the ratings boost it needs to justify the amount of money NBC has committed to Kelly.