This post comes a little late but my mom is in the hospital with a coronary condition so I have not had the time to write.
A couple of days ago Drudge posted a story that Jeff Zucker was going all out to poach Megyn Kelly from FNC. The motivation behind the leaking of this to Drudge would be juicy indeed. Which camp did the deed and why?
But I am instead going to write about why this would probably be a bad deal for both, but for vastly different reasons.
For CNN the risks and unknowns are greater than they are for Kelly. In order…
- According to Drudge, Zucker can’t afford to outbid Fox so instead he is trying to entice Kelly by offering a very wide greater than CNN networks platform and a huge promotion campaign. CNN has a decidedly mixed record on this score. The network threw oodles of money behind a campaign to promote Anderson Cooper; a campaign which failed to deliver the ratings the network hoped for and drew much ridicule for the alleged cost.
- Zucker is taking a bigger risk than necessary if he does things this way. Despite all the glamour shots, all the glowing articles, all the off network promotional appearances, all the hype (Some of it deserved. Some not)…the fact is it is a huge unknown whether Megyn Kelly’s FNC star power transfers off that network. Given the lackluster ratings her Fox broadcast prime time special turned in, this is also a question Fox may be asking itself. The stigma of partisan cable news is very powerful and makes it tough to broaden one’s profile to other less ideological platforms (see: Maddow, Rachel).
- But even if it did transfer, the chances CNN could come anywhere close to getting the ratings FNC gets with Kelly are almost nil. CNN will almost certainly be overpaying for Kelly and not getting the payoff FNC gets.
- Zucker’s instincts regarding talent is checkered at best. For every winning move he has made, there have been two or three which have detonated spectacularly in his face. Alexis Glick being forced down the Today Show’s throat. Going all in on Kate Bolduan and Chris Cuomo because of their on air chemistry only to quietly sever that tie when it was obvious he was very very wrong.
- Some could see this as a move to weaken FNC. It is true that Kelly is the prime time heir apparent to O’Reilly who has maybe a couple of TV years left in him so losing both could cause trouble. But this is predicated on the notion that FNC can’t adjust. As we have seen with Tucker Carlson positively flourishing in Greta Van Susteren’s old timeslot, an apparent loss is not necessarily a loss.
- If CNN comes within a half of FNC’s offer, that will put more than a few CNN telents’ noses out of joint.With justification.
For Kelly the risks are potentially just as high as CNN but for vastly different reasons.
- She will not make as much money as she could at FNC. Exposure is nice but salary is the biggest barometer of stature in this industry.
- No matter how much cross platform exposure Zucker throws Kelly’s way, the unavoidable fact is Zucker has made the network one where there is no leader. No star. No anchor. Instead it is a team of rotating cogs that can be swiped in and out as needed. There is no true pecking order among the top talent. Anyone can dominate at any time given the situation. It isn’t Anderson Cooper’s network. Nor is it Wolf Blitzer’s, Don Lemon’s, Jake Tapper’s, or anyone else’s. That especially includes Megyn Kelly who as the new kid on the block would have to prove herself all over again to justify the prominence Zucker would force down the viewer’s throat. At FNC she could become the face of the network once O’Reilly is gone. At CNN she will always be one of a crowd.
Kelly would be better off at a broadcast network than she would at CNN, though not do as well as she would staying at FNC. CNN will likely never get the intended payoff it hopes for by luring her over. This is not a great deal for either.