Someone Screwed Themselves in the Tamron Hall/NBC Breakup. But who?
Nothing about Tamron Hall leaving NBC makes any sense for either side in this drama. Usually when there’s a breakup there’s a winner and a loser. But in this case there are no winners. There are only losers.
For NBC, losing Hall is not just optically bad, it is substantively bad. It would not be an understatement to argue that NBC had invested a lot in her. It elevated her profile across multiple platforms.
Hall’s duties included the following…
– Today’s Take
– Anchoring MSNBC’s 11am hour
– Subbing on Today
– Subbing on NBC Nightly News
– Hosting Dateline Crime on I.D.
– Hosting Dateline Extra on MSNBC
– Hosting the Westminster Dog Show TV coverage on NBCU’s networks
Hall was NBC’s highest profile female African American talent and NBC made extensive use of her. It was in NBC’s interest to keep her with the network given all the investment the network had made in broadening her profile across NBCU. Losing her would open up the network to all kinds diversity based criticisms. The downside far outweighed the upside if NBC let her walk and the network had to have known this.
For Hall, walking away from NBC was an extremely risky maneuver for one simple reason. The likelihood that she could land elsewhere with anywhere close to the same profile and salary she would have gotten by staying at NBC were very low. It’s not a question of “is she worth it?”. It’s a question of “where’s the space and need available at any other network to make it happen?”
Do not underestimate the significance of this question. Consider:
– At ABC, GMA is full. Yes, it’s not killing Today like it was a couple of years ago but the network just reloaded on talent and format changes so it was unlikely to blow that up at this stage. The rest of ABC’s news properties are pretty well set for the long term. There isn’t much need for Hall at ABC.
– At CBS, the same story. Gayle King just re-upped on CBS This Morning and given that show’s upward trajectory there would be little motivation to upset that apple cart. Oprah just signed on with 60 Minutes. While there have been rumors of changes coming on the CBS Evening News, it would be extremely unlikely that CBS, having been burned rotten by the Katie Couric experiment, would take a flier on her. There isn’t much need for Hall at CBS.
– CNN is a little more interesting but equally unlikely. In the immediate aftermath of Carol Costello’s exit to HLN, I could have seen Hall slip in to that slot. But that ship is long gone from port now and to bring Hall in to the network at this point, while not impossible, is certainly less likely than it would have been prior to CNN’s rejiggered dayside lineup announcement.
There are still potential spots in CNN’s dayside to plug Hall into. Inside Politics and Wolf Blitzer’s first hour would be the most obvious shifts. But that means Blitzer and/or King would be displaced. Blitzer still has The Situation Room and he’s been made to give up time on that show in the past. But it would mean the second time King would lose his show and that would be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.
More to the point, there is nothing CNN could offer Hall that would match what she was currently enjoying with NBC. NBC had her all over the place. At CNN, she would be just another face in a very large crowd. To elevate her profile beyond that would put too many network veterans’ noses out of joint.
– FNC? News anchors are not the draw there…they’re interchangeable cogs. It’s the opinion people who rule the roost. Even if the network had the desire or the room to accommodate Hall, both of which I would find highly implausible, the top dog at FNC’s news is Shepard Smith and his profile has shrunk from what it was six years ago. Hall would be taking a considerable profile hit, compared to what she enjoyed at NBC, if she came to FNC.
From my vantage point Hall’s best option was to remain at NBC.
This is what makes what happened yesterday so unfathomable. It was in both parties’ interest for Hall to stay with NBC. That it didn’t happen suggests someone screwed themselves somehow.
But the question of who sabotaged any prospective deal remains a mystery. There’s been some (NBC based) leakage in the press; no doubt to put a favorable spin and try to mitigate any Ann Curry like fallout from taking place…with Megyn Kelly undeservedly playing the role of Matt Lauer. The gist of the leaks was NBC was willing to throw a lot of money Hall’s way and expand her profile on Today to compensate for Today’s Take going away.
The leaks don’t flat out say it but the impression that’s left hanging in the air is that Hall’s camp screwed this up somehow. There’s been nothing so far from Hall’s camp to refute this but I would not automatically assume that lack of response means there’s truth to the charge. They could just be taking the high road knowing that they need to find someplace new now and any public spat would be counterproductive to that end goal.
The last thing Megyn Kelly needed was more pressure. Well now she’s got more pressure. It’s not fair to view it this way but a lot of people are going to be view it this way:
Megyn Kelly pushed Tamron Hall out of NBC.
In my opinion, to make that claim is stupid. Megyn Kelly had nothing to do with Hall and NBC separating. NBC hired Kelly not knowing where she would go, though the smart money immediately moved to the 9 or 10 am hours. Let’s be clear here; NBC is the reason Today’s Take got cancelled, not Tamron Hall and not Megyn Kelly. If NBC didn’t view Today’s Take as weak it wouldn’t have pushed Willie Geist and Natalie Morales out and Billy Bush in. If NBC didn’t view Today’s Take as weak it wouldn’t have reversed itself and thrown Bush under the bus after the Trump video came out. If NBC didn’t view Today’s Take as weak it wouldn’t have considered it as the more expendable of the two shows after Today (the other being the Hoda Kotb/Kathie Lee hour) if the network wanted to find a place for Kelly’s show. Kelly had nothing to do with any of this.
A does not beget B. Megyn Kelly’s arrival does not mean Tamron Hall’s departure. Whatever broke down in the negotiations between Hall and NBC caused Hall’s departure. It was a departure that nobody should have wanted. Both sides lost.