Sarah Ellison reports in Vanity Fair that although the Murdoch sons are eager to renew Fox News’s contract with host Megyn Kelly for her reported $20 million asking price, none of their network’s rivals appear interested in signing her. The much anticipated “media-wide bidding war for Kelly” has not materialized, due perhaps to the lackluster ratings performance of her “heavily promoted prime time interview with Trump.”
From Vanity Fair:
Kelly’s imminent free agency has been the talk of the very chatty TV-news business. By late summer, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, the C.E.O. and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, respectively, appeared hellbent on re-signing the anchor. Not only was Kelly a meaningful symbol of a post-Ailes culture within the Fox News bunker, but her ratings were also key to preserving Ailes’s estimated $1.5 billion profit machine, which the younger Murdochs were now tasked with maintaining. It didn’t seem to matter that Kelly clashed with O’Reilly, whose own contract expires at the end of 2017. It was clear that the Murdoch sons favored Kelly. They invited her to dinner parties at their homes. They seemed poised to put her on par with O’Reilly’s much larger compensation package, and possibly top his haul, which has been reported to be in the neighborhood of $20 million per year. “It was a perfect storm for her,” said a rival news executive, “and she has made the most of it.” According to multiple people familiar with the discussions, representatives for the network have offered Kelly a compensation package north of the $20 million per year. (A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment.)
Indeed, the headlines over the past weeks, including at the Hive, have anticipated a frenzied, industry-wide bidding war for Kelly. In my reporting on the negotiations, virtually every news executive appeared to be pointing to another rival news executive whom they believed would be making a major play for her.
But so far, the purported auction for Kelly’s services has not come to fruition. One CNN insider explained, “of course we would love to have her,” before noting that poaching Kelly, given the likely cost of her contract, “is not something we are seriously considering.” Instead, this person elaborated, CNN is investing more in documentary-style programming after the election. “I don’t believe anyone is pursuing her other than Fox at this point,” said one ABC insider. A source close to CBS said that they are not making an offer, either. (The person close to Kelly noted that discussions with rival executives were ongoing.)
In fact, Kelly’s attempt to spread her wings and show that she is more than just a nightly cable-news host may work against her. An executive close to ABC told me that Kelly’s performance during her heavily promoted prime-time interview with Trump was particularly damaging to her perceived ability to “translate” to a morning show, where anchors are typically paid more handsomely than their prime-time counterparts. For Kelly, the Trump interview was intended to patch up her feud with the candidate and show her softer side. But the event was a critical and ratings disappointment. After that, “it was never a sort of concerted effort to think about what [Kelly] could look like [at ABC],” the executive told me.
Read the rest here.