Kelly, a star primetime anchor with Fox who achieved national fame for her coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, will join NBC News as host of a daytime news program and anchor of a Sunday night news show.
The move is a major coup for NBC, and a major blow to Fox News. In the last 18 months, Kelly has become one of the most famous and coveted talents in the television news industry, and her show was the second-most watched news program on cable. Her departure will leave a hole in the middle of Fox’s primetime schedule.
Kelly’s future had been the topic of constant speculation in the television news industry for the past year. Kelly and her representatives also held talks with CNN and ABC, among other potential outlets, before deciding on NBC.
Sources with knowledge of the matter said that Fox News has offered Kelly an annual salary of more than $20 million to stay at the network, matching the salary of her colleague and rival, Bill O’Reilly. NBC News has not disclosed the terms of Kelly’s new contract.
“Megyn is an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career,” NBCUniversal News Group chairman Andy Lack said in an email to staff. “She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her.”
In a Facebook post, Kelly wrote that she was leaving Fox News “incredibly enriched” by her twelve years at the network.
“While I will greatly miss my colleagues at Fox, I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge,” she wrote. “I remain deeply grateful to Fox News, to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch, and especially to all of the FNC viewers, who have taught me so much about what really matters. More to come soon.”
Lack’s internal memo said Kelly would start hosting “later this year.” He did not list a specific start date. In addition to her own programs, Kelly will contribute to NBC’s breaking news coverage as well as the network’s political and special events coverage.
It is not yet clear if Kelly’s Sunday night program will air during the NFL football season, when NBC broadcasts “Sunday Night Football.” When asked, an NBC News source said “all timing is TBD.”
The announcement, initially reported by The New York Times and confirmed by NBC minutes later, appeared to catch Fox News somewhat off guard.
Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, who oversee Fox News and the rest of parent company 21st Century Fox, had worked hard to convince Kelly to stay within the company, offering her several different options. But Rupert Murdoch was also quoted last fall saying that plenty of other Fox hosts would be eager to take over Kelly’s 9 p.m. time slot.
Murdoch issued a statement that said, “We thank Megyn Kelly for her 12 years of contributions to FOX News. We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best.”
Kelly was in an awkward work setting at Fox over the last year to say the least. Bill O’Reilly, the 8 p.m. host, and Sean Hannity, the 10 p.m. host, both publicly clashed with her at various moments in 2016, furthering the speculation that she might not want to remain at Fox.
Kelly also played a key role in the ouster of Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, who left the network amid multiple sexual harassment allegations. Kelly herself accused Ailes of sexually harassing her and making inappropriate comments in private meetings.