This is twice in less than a week that sources have crowed to Page Six about how awful Kelly’s ratings are. Page Six is a section of the New York Post, which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Why would a sister company of Fox News want to revel in Kelly’s failure at NBC?
Assume it really is this bad and continues to be this bad. What are they going to do with her? She’s signed at $23 million a year for three years. You’re not going to get a ROI having her doing garbage-time teleprompter-reading in the middle of the afternoon for MSNBC. Maybe they’ll kick Hallie Jackson upstairs somewhere and make Kelly their White House correspondent, to revive ye olde POTUS/Kelly feud.
Her “Megyn Kelly Today” viewership slipped from 0.77 ratings points on Monday to 0.54 ratings points on Tuesday of last week.
“It’s a possible all-time low for ‘Today.’ It may even be lower than her [Fox] cable show. [NBC News president] Noah [Oppenheim] and [NBC News and MSNBC chairman] Andy [Lack] are in big trouble,” a source told us.
Another source added, “That’s a big drop. They have to turn this around.”
Last week an “insider” told Page Six Kelly’s hour was down 32 percent in the ratings from that same time slot last year. Good lord.
The two most cutting pieces I’ve read about her over the past month were written by women of the left, each marveling at the transformation Kelly’s undergone from her no-nonsense persona at Fox News to the sunshine-and-gumdrops Mornin’ Megyn of “Today.” Here’s Batya Ungar-Sargon on Kelly becoming “some horrific bizarro version of her former self”:
The former Megyn Kelly came to slay, whether you liked it or not. The new Megyn Kelly is “so excited — so excited” and “also a little nervous; bear with me, please!” With every gesture, every word, every look, the new Megyn Kelly seems to be trying to convey one thing: Like me.
It’s one of the bitterest ironies in television that it was at Fox News, network of blond bombshells and chronic sexual harassment, that Ms. Kelly was given the breathing room to become that most unusual of unicorns: an unlikable woman on television.
That’s not the only irony at work in Kelly’s rebranding. Lili Loofbourow of The Week administers the coup de grace:
What’s startling about this transformation is the extent to which Kelly, who built a career on cool, vaguely aristocratic scorn, has pivoted to her tormentor President Trump’s precise notion of what a female political journalist ought to be: politics- and conflict-free. “Have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear, and maybe a little hope to start your day. Some fun! That’s what we wanna be doing. Some fun,” she says, framing her show as an escapist pleasure.
She waves her hands, smiles too hard, and delivers exactly what Trump wants: total, unconditional surrender. “I am kinda done with politics for now,” she says, and the audience cheers. It’s a savagely irresponsible declaration from a woman who constituted so great a threat to Trump that he melted down after the debate and — by her own account — made her life a living hell in retaliation. But it’s typical, too: Kelly made no apology for keeping Trump’s efforts to bribe journalists for good coverage under wraps for her book — which came out after the election.
I don’t think her “lack of genuineness,” as John Ziegler put it, is what’s killing her at NBC. There probably isn’t much overlap between her mostly female “mom” audience for “Today” and her mostly older male right-wing audience at Fox so the former have no yardstick with which to measure whether she’s being authentic or not. The poor ratings are likely a product of overhype: NBC signed her for mega-bucks, she was brought over from Fox touted as the biggest woman star in news, a Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer for the next generation, annnnd … she’s serving up celebrity sugar-puff cereal that any TV personality with an ounce of charisma could produce. She stood out in cable news primetime — she was smart, she wasn’t overtly ideological, she wasn’t a man. She was one of a kind. The “new Megyn,” by comparison, is a face in the crowd. Imagine coming to Kelly’s morning show cold, as someone who didn’t watch her on Fox, expecting great things after all the buzz from her joining the network. And instead you get the same old 9 a.m. gruel. How long would you stick around?
Beyond that, and at the risk of indulging stereotypes, someone wrote during the week her show debuted (can’t remember who) that Kelly has always been more of a “guy’s gal” than a “gal’s gal.” That strikes me as true although I can’t quite put my finger on why. It has nothing to do with looks. It has to do, I think, with the fact that on her Fox show you got the sense that Kelly enjoyed throwing a punch. She liked to box, but not for the usual Team Red/Team Blue ideological reasons that cable-news hosts typically enjoy brawling. Kelly just seemed to have fun mixing it up. (Cue the accusation of stereotypes: “You mean a ‘gal’s gal’ can’t enjoy mixing it up too?!” Sigh. No.) I think this is what Ungar-Sargon means in remarking on how willing Kelly was at Fox to be “unlikable.” That’s sort of true — but Kelly’s always been charming to people who don’t hate her for their own ideological reasons. She’s plenty likable. It’s not so much that she was “unlikable” as that she reveled in being challenging. And now she’s gone and ensconced herself in the least challenging news format this side of “Inside Edition.”
So here’s what she’s left with. Lefties are rooting for her to fail because of her Fox News pedigree; Trumpers are rooting for her to fail because she sandbagged their hero at the first primary debate; and people who aren’t interested in politics are rooting for her to fail because it’s always fun to see something that’s been massively hyped underperform. As her old pal Donald would say: Sad.