Last January former Fox News host Megyn Kelly left the station over sexual harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly. Though the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox–Fox News’ parent company–was prepared to offer Kelly a $20 million a year raise, she instead opted to join NBC. While the network had expected to achieve stellar ratings with the addition of Kelly, a new report published in The Wall Street Journal reveals that Kelly’s morning show “Megyn Kelly Today” has struggled to draw in the large audience it had originally anticipated.
According to data from Nielsen, Kelly’s morning show experienced an increase in viewership around the Olympics in February of 2018–but has since consistently experienced a decline in viewership. In particular, Nielsen reports that there has been a 28% ratings decline amongst the show’s target audience, adults age 25-54, since last season.
Prior to joining NBC her Fox News segment known as “The Kelly File” drew in an average audience 2.7 million viewers per show. Currently, her morning show averages an audience of 2.4 million viewers per day.
Several factors are believed to have contributed to the decline in viewership since Kelly joined NBC, one of which is the addition of Ryan Seacrest on Kelly Ripa’s ABC show which was renamed “Live With Kelly and Ryan.” Since Seacrest was named permanent co-host of “Live”–a show which has a competing time slot with Kelly’s show– Nielsen data shows has it had averaged over 747,000 more viewers than Megyn Kelly Today.
Another factor believed to contribute to Megyn’s lower than expected ratings is her difficulty with balancing “hard news” and “soft news.” When Kelly initially joined NBC, she was allotted a Sunday news magazine slot known as “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.” To the network’s disappointment, the premiere episode that featured an exclusive interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin did not achieve nearly as large of an audience as the network anticipated. On top of that, the segment received much backlash.
Kelly also had controversial InfoWars founder Alex Jones on her Sunday show–he stated in his widely watched YouTube show that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a hoax, among other falsehoods. That episode also received backlash and led to a subsequent decline in viewership. After an eight-episode run, the network responded by pulling the Sunday night show and announced that it will run “periodically.”
When it comes to soft news stories, Kelly has also struggled to deliver a boost in viewership and additionally has received further backlash from her audience and celebrities which she has hosted on the show. In the debut episode of “Megyn Kelly Today,” which featured the cast of the TV show “Will & Grace,” Kelly asked a super-fan Russell Turner whether the show inspired him to become gay. Shortly after the episode premiered, actress Debra Messing–who stars in the show–said she regretted taking part in Kelly’s premiere.
After making a $69 million deal to lure Kelly into joining NBC, the network is eager to see a boost in ratings. According to Kelly, the boost in ratings will require more time.
“Our show is a baby. We’re six months old,” Kelly said in a statement. “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 find its footing,” she said.