Opinion: Why was ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ canceled?

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NBC News‘ “Megyn Kelly Today” was canceled Oct. 26, 2018 after comments the former Fox News host Megyn Kelly made about blackface were viewed as racist and insensitive.

On Oct. 24, Kelly apologized live on air for the comments she made on the Oct. 23 episode. However, NBC opted to air reruns of her show Oct. 25 and 26, before ultimately announcing it would be canceled Oct. 26.

Why the show was canceled is a harder question to answer.

  • One of the main reasons was that Kelly’s ratings were never good. After her debut in September 2017, ratings data shown a drop in viewers over the previous “Today’s Take” that occupied the timeslot.
  • Her ratings did start to pick up a bit when she emerged as a leading voice speaking interviewing victims of sexual harassment.
  • In fact, some data was indicating her ratings were on the rise when the blackface scandal hit.
  • However, many viewed NBC as using the blackface incident to its advantage to not only cancel a show that was troublesome in the ratings, fairly embarrassing but also carrying a hefty price tag. Some has speculated NBC may even try to use Kelly’s offensive statements to get out of paying any or a part of her remaining contract value.
  • Others argued that NBC “set her up to fail” using a variety of tactics — from not promoting or marketing the show enough, to placing her in a format that didn’t suit her skills or personality.
  • Despite Kelly being the highest paid personality at NBC News and bringing in only mediocre, at best, ratings, the show still could have made decent money for NBC.
  • Since people were still watching, the network could still sell advertising during the show — though purportedly not at the rates it had expected to garner — and likely was still realizing significant revenue. Whether it was enough to cover Kelly’s salary, plus all the production costs with profit leftover is certainly not impossible, though will likely be something no one outside of NBC’s exec suites will ever know for surer.
  • Despite being part of the “news” division, the show was also full of “Club MK” audience giveaways, which typically are considered type of paid product placement that is not unknown among both network morning news programs and syndicated daytime talkers. This could have represented some additional revenue.
  • That said, at the end of the day what put the nail in the coffin for Megyn Kelly was likely Megyn Kelly. Whether or not NBC took advantage of her of comments or not, she still said them. She admitted at the time she’s never considered herself “PC” — which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a mainstream network morning show.
  • That “non politically correct” attitude may have flown at Fox News, it appears it wasn’t something many NBC viewers were looking for. Even diehard Fox and Kelly took to social media saying they were “done with her” after the move to NBC was announced — though many also expressed support.
  • Kelly was also used to a primetime, news driven format with pundits often making statements just as brash as her.
  • Finally, many argue that, Kelly just isn’t all that great of a broadcast. She sometimes seems to struggle reading off teleprompters and often comes across as stilted and robotic (though some personalities have taken that to their advantage — here’s to you, “Chenbot”).
  • At times Kelly even struggled to stand in the middle of her studio audience — much less interact with them.
  • Her shows were also often filled with odd gestures that seemed either over rehearsed or just “trying too hard.”
  • Most morning shows are designed to be light and fluffy, with content focusing around some hard news and debate, but skewing more toward pop culture and roundtables discussing offbeat or lifestyle topics.
  • Ultimately, NBC ended up filling her hour, at least temporarily, with a rotating parade of NBC News and guest panelists and hosts mostly sitting around a roundtable discussing quasi-newsy topics — with most of these hosts and panelists already on payroll, even if they had to be paid a bit extra to appear during the hour, the economics of the situation probably make more sense.
  • That’s especially true when early data suggests the ratings are already up for “Today Third Hour,” the rather unimaginative name NBC is giving the program that took the place of “Megyn Kelly Today.”