News that the formal parting of Kelly and NBC is getting closer was previously reported Tuesday by the New York Post. A person familiar with the situation said the remaining haggling was not about money but the specifics of the non-compete clause and non-disclosure agreements for which NBC has pushed. The talks are not expected to conclude until next week because of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
Reps for NBCUniversal, NBC News and Kelly declined comment.
Kelly’s imminent exit is the last stage of a misplaced bet by NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, who wagered big money on luring the former Fox News star to a three-year deal in early 2017.
Kelly was removed nearly a month ago as host of the “Megyn Kelly Today” 9 a.m. hour of NBC News’ lucrative “Today” franchise after she defended the use of blackface for Halloween costumes on air.
Before the blackface segment, Kelly and NBC News executives had been in talks to find her a new role beyond the ratings-challenged morning show, one that would involve her in hard news stories. Those conversations were derailed, however, after Kelly opened her Oct. 23 broadcast with a discussion of Halloween costumes and her defense of the use of blackface that drew criticism not only on social media, but also from NBC News colleagues including Al Roker and Craig Melvin.
The uproar made keeping Kelly on the air untenable for NBC. And it was the final nail in the coffin in the already-soured relationship between Kelly, Lack and a number of her NBC News colleagues.
Kelly got off to a rocky start at NBC News when she launched the poorly received newsmagazine “Sunday With Megyn Kelly” early on in her tenure. She shifted her focus to the 9 a.m. hour in September 2017. Her first few weeks on the air were choppy as she had uncomfortable on-air exchanges with guests including Jane Fonda and the cast of “Will & Grace.”
After the #MeToo movement began to gain steam, Kelly found a niche in telling the stories of victims of harassment and sexual abuse. But she never rebounded from the ratings declines that her show delivered compared to the previous “Today” host rotation.
Kelly’s failure to adapt to NBC News environs after making a name for herself as a tough interviewer on Fox News reflects the balkanized nature of the TV news landscape these days. Kelly’s Fox News audience never followed her to daytime TV. NBC News has been criticized for laying out an estimated $23 million a year for a news star at a time when newsgathering resources are being stretched thin amid the spike in political and national news and the growing number of platforms that need to be served.
This isn’t the first time NBCU made a big talent bet and missed a reward. The company lured Josh Elliott from ABC’s “Good Morning America” to NBC Sports in 2014, but the alliance proved ill-fated. Elliott would leave the company without finding a particular niche and worked for CBS News for a period of time afterwards.
Reports of a $30 million deal for Kelly to depart are also drawing outrage in social media and in journalism circles.