Megyn Kelly’s transition to Today host has been rough. Ratings for Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly on NBC News were in the toilet and reduced to occasional specials. A new report from the Wall Street Journal indicates that the cost of Kelly’s spiral has been high—more expensive than the salaries of several other big names at NBC.
The ratings for Kelly’s hour have declined by 18 percent since this same time last year, according to the WSJ. She does even worse in the specific demographic targeted by Today, adults aged 25 to 54, where ratings are down 28 percent (though Kelly has gotten a few boosts with her coverage of the #MeToo movement).
Nielson data indicates that this dip has hurt the hour of Today hosted by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, which is down 6 percent overall and 19 percent in that key demographic. This has made Kelly’s show especially unpopular with local stations that carry NBC programming and have a big influence on the network’s decisions. For example, WAVE-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, says the audience for Kelly’s hour is over 40% smaller than what what it brought in a year ago.
From the WSJ:
“Megyn Kelly Today” is vastly more expensive for NBC than its predecessor, which was more clearly an extension of the “Today” show with shared resources. The combined salaries of previous hosts Al Roker and Tamron Hall were less than half of Ms. Kelly’s $23 million-a-year payday, according to several people familiar with the matter. Ms. Kelly declined to comment on her salary.
The show also carries a much higher budget, including staff who work as Ms. Kelly’s stylist and publicist. Plus, NBC News spent nearly $10 million redesigning a studio for the show that it also has to rent.
Tamron Hall was abruptly removed from her spot on Today just before Kelly was added to the roster. She left NBC shortly after. Insiders stated that the seemingly disastrous decision to lure Kelly over with an enormous paycheck was based on the old idea that it was the face delivering the news that mattered, i.e. the Matt Lauer model. Kelly has not brought her Fox News following with her to NBC, and has had trouble connecting with their generally less conservative viewership.
“Our show is a baby. We’re six months old,” Megyn Kelly said in her show’s defense. “Morning TV is obviously new to me and I’m figuring it out as we go…I think any show needs about a year to just find its footing.”