Megyn Kelly claims not free to work for NBC under contract with Fox, but Fox News disagrees

Has Megyn Kelly morphed from a hot commodity to a hot potato?  Something very weird is going on in the TV news business as the onetime mega-star remains under wraps at NBC, even though her former employer says she is free to work for them.

Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

The cable news juggernaut [that would be Fox News –ed.] said in a statement that it released Ms. Kelly from the network on March 9, almost four months before her contract expires on July 1, so she can start working at NBC News. She announced in January that she will be anchoring a daily morning show at NBC along with a Sunday evening program.

Ms. Kelly's camp contests that. Leslee Dart, Ms. Kelly's spokeswoman said, "the terms of the termination are still being negotiated."

Hmm.  Now, that is very odd.  Somebody is not telling the truth.

Ms. Kelly is reported to be earning in the neighborhood of $15 million a year.  That works out to just over $41,000 per day, which is a lot of money to leave on the table every single day if NBC is cutting her paychecks.  But for a behemoth like Comcast, that is chump change.

In the TV business, the big event each year is the late springtime "upfront" presentation to advertisers, in which the inventory of advertising space for the coming broadcast year that debuts in the fall is displayed to clients.  In the case of NBC-Universal, that inventory would sell for about $6 billion, according to Variety, assuming that the prices hoped for by the network are realized.  If advertisers believe that Megyn's planned programming will be a hit, those prices will be realized.  But if her prospects are sinking, they will not bid up prices for ad space in her planned shows.

According to Variety, those planned shows (for now) are:

One concept being designed around Kelly is a new morning program slated to air at either 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. that will take up an hour previously allocated to NBC's flagship "Today" program.  NBC is not planning at this time to associate Kelly's show with its morning franchise, according to one person familiar with the matter, but NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said last week after an appearance at an event organized by IESE Business School that the network had yet to determine final details around the new program.

Kelly's other project is a Sunday-night newsmagazine that will have to be scheduled around NBC's "Sunday Night Football" franchise.

The Monday-to-Friday show obviously would be aimed at women, who constitute the biggest part of daytime TV viewership.  But the prime slot following Sunday Night Football (nearly always the highest rated show for NBC) would garner a large male viewership.  While males and females certainly can both be attracted to the same celebrity, I wonder if Megyn Kelly falls into that category.  She is very intense and pointed in her approach.  Is the network wondering if daytime morning audiences would be attracted to such an approach?  Oprah Winfrey, one of the all-time champions of daytime TV, was very approachable and empathetic.  Neither of those terms springs to mind when contemplating the lovely Ms. Kelly.

My guess is that NBC realizes that it has a dilemma in handling Kelly.  As a polarizing figure (it is widely believed that existing NBC staff – especially the Today Show crew – are upset with the import of the Fox News personality), she has the potential of disrupting both the internal workings of the network and the public's viewing habits.  The last thing they would want to do is rush into any decisions on how to handle the hot potato they have just purchased.

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