As the Murdochs try to hold together Fox News in the middle of the worst sexual harassment scandal in media history, it is being reported that Megyn Kelly may leave the network after her contract expires next year.
Vanity Fair reported that it might come down to Fox News keeping either Megyn Kelly or Bill O’Reilly:
Besides a ratings hit, losing Kelly would be devastating for the optics of Fox News. “On top of all their troubles they have, if they lose their ‘It girl,’ they’ll be in even worse shape,” one rival television executive told me. The Ailes scandal has given her additional leverage. “If I’m her agent, I’m thinking ka-ching,” the executive added. Kelly, who according to the L.A. Times makes around $10 million a year at Fox News, could possibly command double that when her current contract expires in July 2017, a figure more in line with what her in-house rival and nemesis Bill O’Reilly reportedly earns.
The enmity between them is palpable. O’Reilly, who also has one year to go on his contract, was one of Trump’s biggest defenders throughout his public battle with Kelly. Rupert Murdoch knows and likes O’Reilly. The brothers, however, reportedly are not fans. The rival news executive floated to me the possibility that if O’Reilly stays, Kelly is likely to go. That may well be true. She is soon to be a free agent, and like a star player, may decide that whatever the money, she wants to live in a different universe. (A person close to Kelly told me that she will, as one might expect, make her decision based on a variety of factors.)
It is very likely that for Megyn Kelly to stay with Fox News, Bill O’Reilly is going to need to be shown the door. If Fox News sticks with O’Reilly, Kelly is probably gone. The plan at Fox News has always been for Kelly to take O’Reilly’s time slot at 8 PM ET. Kelly is the future of the network’s primetime lineup, but the possibility of an Ailes/Trump media partnership looming after the election, Fox News may not want to risk having to compete against O’Reilly and a new conservative news network.
Megyn Kelly holds all the cards. If she wants 8 PM and O’Reilly shoved into retirement, the Murdochs are going to have a decision to make. If Kelly decides that she is done with Fox News, she will bolt, and the network’s long-term prognosis will grow dire.
Fox News may still be the top cable news network, but there are real cracks in the foundation. If the Murdochs can’t repair the damage on the fly, the cable news ratings leader may come tumbling down faster than anyone could have imagined.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association