Megyn Kelly has long delivered the news. Now, as her contract talks with Fox News continue, she will be forced to make a major decision about where she ought to be doing it.
The popular anchor, whose “Kelly File” on Fox News snared 754,000 viewers between 25 and 54 in November, a new high, is entertaining offers from a handful of rival outlets, according to people familiar with the matter — part of an agreement with her employer that gives her a window to hear outreach from other networks. Most of the talks are very preliminary in nature, and none are guaranteed to come to fruition. Kelly, who has three young children, is said to be concerned most about what’s best for her family. She could well stay at Fox News, where she is believed to be seeking approximately $20 million a year — a top-level salary in the TV-news business that would be hard to match elsewhere.
As she is in the midst of promoting her New York Times bestseller, “Settle for More,” with a book tour, Kelly must also decide whether to stay at the network that made her a star or try something new.
Could one of those places be CNN? The prospect was raised earlier Thursday when The Drudge Report posted an account suggesting Kelly was considering an offer from the Time Warner-owned cable-news outlet. A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Kelly. A Fox News representative could not be reached for immediate comment.
Finding a slot at CNN for Kelly could require some lineup shuffling. The network recently signed a new deal with Anderson Cooper, who at present anchors two hours a night between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has recently offered effusive praise for Don Lemon, who has hosted two hours between 10 p.m. and midnight during the election. And then there are all those documentaries and non-fiction series CNN has invested in to use as primetime programming for when the news cycle cools down.
In the wake of a stunning election cycle that gripped the nation, that has yet to happen. People familiar with the network characterize the original series as a type of programming insurance for when the big stories of the day aren’t big enough to capture massive viewership. If that’s the case, these people speculate, Kelly could find a place in CNN’s lineup. There’s also the chance that Zucker, long known for his willingness to experiment with new formats, might try something different with Kelly. “She’s an immense talent,” Zucker told Variety earlier this year. “She’d be a tremendous asset to any organization she’s with.”
Leaving Fox News might be tough. The Murdoch family, which controls the network’s parent, 21st Century Fox, sees Kelly’s presence on air as a nod to a rising generation of audience that is interested in a greater diversity of viewpoints. Her willingness to grill Republican guests and push back on conventional wisdom has been good for Fox, which has one of TV’s older set of viewers.
At the same time, there has been public friction at several points in the recent past between Kelly and two of her most prominent colleagues. Both Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, who anchor the hours before and after “The Kelly File,” respectively, have called her out — Hannity on social media and O’Reilly on “CBS This Morning,” where he suggested her recent book revived a recent controversy at Fox News involving sexual harassment allegations against former chief executive Roger Ailes. He has denied charges levied at him, though the allegations eventually resulted in his ouster from the network.
To be sure, there there may be risks in holding out too long. Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, told The Wall Street Journal in October that Kelly was important to the network, but that he hoped to come to terms with her “very soon.” He also noted that Fox News has “a deep bench of talent, many of whom would give their right arm for her spot.”
Kelly is working with a team at Creative Artists Agency to determine her next steps. Among her representatives is Matt DelPiano, who has typically represented actors including Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin. Alan Berger, a veteran of TV-news deals, is also involved, but it’s DelPiano with whom Kelly is said to be close. Where they take her remains to be seen. Her existing contract with Fox News extends until July of 2017.