NBC chose to air a repeat broadcast of “Megyn Kelly Today” – an almost unheard-of maneuver in the realm of morning-news programming – as tensions between NBC News and anchor Megyn Kelly appeared to heighten, putting her future at the Comcast-owned network under a cloud.
“Given the circumstances, ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ will be on tape the rest of the week,” NBC News said in a statement Thursday. Kelly typically tapes the Friday broadcast of the program.
Kelly and NBC News had been in discussions about finding a new role for her other than host of her 9 a.m. program, “Megyn Kelly Today,” according to a person familiar with the matter. The program has not fared better than its predecessor, a “Today” hour led by Tamron Hall, Al Roker, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales, and has drawn outsize scrutiny. But the show’s viability took a new turn earlier this week after Kelly opened Tuesday’s program with a discussion of Halloween costumes and blackface that drew criticism not only on social media, but also from NBC News colleagues including Al Roker and Craig Melvin.
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack addressed this week’s controversy Wednesday at a town hall meeting with news staffers. “There is no other way to put this but I condemn those remarks, there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate,” Lack said, according to people present at the meeting. He added: “As we go forward, my highest priority remains, and as we sort through this with Megyn, let there be no doubt that this is a workplace in which you need to be proud and in which we respect each other in all the ways we know is foundational to who we are.”
NBC has learned the hard way what can happen when an anchor whose relationship with the network is strained goes on the air in a morning-news setting. In 2012, the network decided to bump co-anchor “Ann Curry” from its flagship “Today” program, and gave her time to bid farewell to viewers. The results were awkward, with Curry crying on air and appearing visibly put off by her co-host, Matt Lauer. Ratings for “Today” took a troubling turn, with viewers disturbed by the on-screen drama. ABC rival “Good Morning America” was the beneficiary, gaining new viewers and rising to become the nation’s most-watched morning program – a distinction “Today” has yet to recapture (the NBC show leads in the audience most coveted by advertisers, people between 25 and 54).
Airing a “Today” repeat might be seen as an extreme tactic. Morning viewers expect a fresh episode every day. Indeed, for a good chunk of the her program’s run, Kelly has often pre-taped episodes to run when she was on a reporting assignment or otherwise unavailable. NBC News recently ran a week of broadcasts with various anchors filling in for Kelly when she took a week-long vacation. Stephanie Gosk. an NBC News correspondent who appears regularly on “Megyn Kelly Today,” recently served as a fill-in host on the show.
“Megyn Kelly Today” has been a work in progress. At times, it has garnered good notice for Kelly’s willingness to examine tough issues and the #MeToo social-justice movement. She did not shy away from a discussion about the late-2017 ouster of Matt Lauer after NBC News found allegations of sexual harassment levied at him, or similar accusations levied at Tom Brokaw. The anchors have both denied some of the charges made against them. In other instances, however, the show has brought unwanted attention, including Kelly’s scolding of actress Jane Fonda. Media buyers said Wednesday that the program had proven to be a disappointment after NBC hyped Kelly’s arrival to its air.
NBC on Thursday opted to re-air a show devoted to getting better sleep. The opening featured Kelly talking to journalist Joe Levy and actress Marilu Henner. Whether “Megyn Kelly Today” gets a chance to rise again – and in what form – is likely under review.