Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren moves force Fox News to go Trumpier

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The addition of Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren to NBC News and MSNBC, respectively, may portend major shifts across the TV news landscape. For Fox, the loss of its biggest news star has resulted in a doubling down on conservative-leaning opinion hosts in primetime. And at Andrew Lack's NBCUniversal news division, there could be a rightward tack in certain areas in response to the election of Donald Trump.

21st Century Fox leaders James and Lachlan Murdoch are said to have considered re-signing Kelly, 46, a key part of their strategy to focus Fox News more closely on news. But when Kelly passed up a reported four-year, $100 million Fox deal to join NBC on Jan. 3, the Murdochs instead elevated conservative host Tucker Carlson to her 9 p.m. time slot between Bill O'Reilly and Trump supporter Sean Hannity, both of whom clashed publicly with Kelly during the presidential campaign.

"If Sean Hannity won the power struggle, it was probably because Kelly didn't really want the fight," notes news analyst Andrew Tyndall. "If you're going to have a Fox News primetime that's made in Hannity's image, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with having Carlson there."

Sources close to Kelly note the battles with her Fox primetime colleagues had begun to grate on her. And they remain skeptical that the Murdochs — especially Rupert Murdoch, who has taken a lead role at Fox News since the ouster of Roger Ailes amid sexual harassment claims — would have pivoted primetime to news given that Fox in its current incarnation delivered $1 billion in profits to the parent company in 2016.

See photos of Megyn Kelly through the years:

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Megyn Kelly through the years
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Megyn Kelly through the years
Fox News host Megyn Kelly greets the crowd before interviewing Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, at Calvary Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured: Megyn Kelly -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: Megyn Kelly (C), Darth Vader and Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion attend New York Philharmonic's Spring Gala, A John Williams Celebration at David Geffen Hall on May 24, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for New York Philharmonic)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07: Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly attends the 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Joey Foley/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0470 -- Pictured: Journalist Megyn Kelly during an interview on May 12, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Megyn Kelly attends the 'Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology' Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Douglas Brunt and Megyn Kelly attend the 102nd White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on April 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
MEGYN KELLY presents: Megyn Kelly (R) and Donald Trump (L) during the FOX special 'MEGYN KELLY presents' airing Tuesday, May 17 (8:00-9:01 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Eric Liebowitz/FOX via Getty Images)
MEGYN KELLY presents: Megyn Kelly (R) interviews Michael Douglas (L) during the FOX Special MEGYN KELLY presents airing Tuesday, May 17 (8:00-9:01 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Eric Liebowitz/FOX via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Journalist Megyn Kelly attends Variety's Power Of Women: New York 2016 at Cipriani Midtown on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Megyn Kelly attends the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit Opening Night at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on April 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly waits to begin the Republican presidential candidate debate at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. Candidates from both parties are crisscrossing Iowa, an agricultural state of about 3 million people in the U.S. heartland that will hold the first votes of the 2016 election on Feb. 1. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 28: Moderators Chris Wallace (L) pats on the shoulder of Megyn Kelly (2nd L) as they wait with Bret Baier (R) for the beginning of the Fox News - Google GOP Debate January 28, 2016 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Residents of Iowa will vote for the Republican nominee at the caucuses on February 1. Donald Trump, who is leading most polls in the state, decided not to participate in the debate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Megyn Kelly appears on ABCs 'Good Morning America,' Friday, February 5, 2016. 'Good Morning America' airs Monday Friday (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) MEGYN KELLY
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0411 -- Pictured: (l-r) Journalist Megyn Kelly during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on February 4, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Megyn Kelly appears on ABCs 'Good Morning America,' Friday, February 5, 2016. 'Good Morning America' airs Monday Friday (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) MEGYN KELLY
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: News anchor Megyn Kelly speaks onstage during Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit - Day 2 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: TV personality Megyn Kelly attends the 2015 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Megyn Kelly attends the 2014 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 080 -- Pictured: (l-r) Political commentator Megyn Kelly during an interview with host Seth Meyers on July 31, 2014 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Megyn Kelly attends at the benefit concert for Army SPC Bryan Dilberain at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on April 27, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 19: Kid Rock with host Megyn Kelly visits FOX's 'America Live' at FOX Studios on June 19, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Fox anchor Megyn Kelly prepares for the Fox News/Google GOP Debate at the Orange County Convention Center on September 22, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The debate features the nine Republican candidates two days before the Florida straw poll. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Megyn Kelly, host of America Live on set at Fox News studios in New York. Fox News Channel celebrated its 15th anniversary on the air on October 7th.
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Read more: Galloway on Film: Megyn Kelly and the Code of Omerta

The new Fox News lineup of an all-male team between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. (though MarthaMacCallum on Jan. 16 will begin hosting The First 100 Days) features three varieties of the network's traditional conservative commentary. And now O'Reilly, the top-rated host, is dealing with the revelation Jan. 10 that Fox quietly settled a sexual harassment claim in the summer brought by JulietHuddy, a former employee, against him. ("Huddy's letter of intent to sue contained substantial hoods which were vehemently denied by Bill O'Reilly," says Fox in a statement.)

One longtime industry executive notes the Kelly and Van Susteren moves are in line with an old-school modus operandi of bringing in established talent — and, in the case of Kelly, a huge star. "The calculation," says an NBC News insider, "was we're better off having her than not having her." Both women hail from the news operation of Fox News, as opposed to its opinion hosts. Kelly, of course, stood up to Trump's bullying and was known before that to break with conservative ideology. Since assuming leadership of MSNBC nearly three years ago, Lack has turned the network back toward straight news coverage during the day, keeping its opinionated hosts mostly confined to primetime. In announcing Van Susteren's deal Jan. 5, MSNBC president Phil Griffin noted her "proven record of tough journalism." Van Susteren, 62, began hosting a 7 p.m. show Jan. 9, and a promo for her Washington-based program features a personal testimonial from Rachel Maddow, MSNBC's biggest progressive star.

Meanwhile, a week after Kelly's deal was announced, top execs at NBC News remained in the dark about Lack's plans for her. Kelly's exit from Fox News still is being worked out, and sources say her Fox deal, set to expire in July, has a six-month noncompete clause — standard in TV news contracts. That means the Murdochs conceivably could keep her off NBC until year's end, though no one expects that to happen.

Sources inside and outside NBC are pointing to a likely scenario of giving Kelly the troubled 9 a.m. hour of Today in lieu of launching a daytime show and mounting what would be an uphill sales pitch to stations. The third hour of Today has been the weakest link in the NBC News franchise that includes the flagship 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. block anchored by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie and the frothy 10 a.m. hour hosted by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. It was thrown into further turmoil last year when Billy Bush was ousted after the Access Hollywood Trump tape leaked. So NBC News executives may have little to lose by giving Kelly the hour. Sources at NBC News caution that nothing has been decided, but insiders expect her to make her NBC debut in a regular capacity this summer, though she could be on the air earlier as part of the network's breaking news and event coverage. With Kelly, NBC News execs have the opportunity to rebrand the 9 a.m. hour of Today to fit her strengths as a reporter and interviewer and also achieve some flow between the more news-focused flagship block. "It's another high-end talent in your most profitable block," says one industry observer. "If you keep her in her lane, can she do her kind of show at 9 a.m. versus 9 p.m.? I'd buy that."

See photos of Greta Van Susteren:

29 PHOTOS
Greta Van Susteren through the years
See Gallery
Greta Van Susteren through the years
Headshot of American broadcast journalist Greta Van Susteren of the CNN televison network, listens during a televised discussion about the White House sex scandal, Arlington, Virginia, January 28, 1998. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
404951 07: Fox News'' Greta Van Susteren (R) and Sharon Osbourne arrive at the annual White House Correspondents'' dinner May 4, 2002 in Washington, DC. The correspondents'' dinner, now in its 88th year, has become an occasion for self-deprecating humor from U.S. presidents. (Photo by Manny Ceneta/Getty Images)
Greta Van Susteren during The Bloomberg after-party immediately following The White House Correspondents Dinner at Trade Ministry of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC, United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
405704 02: Fox News'' Greta Van Susteren talks on her cell phone at the scene where human remains where found in Rock Creek Park May 22, 2002 in Washington, DC. A human skull and other skeletal remains were found and police are trying to determine if it is Chandra Levy, the former Washington intern who disappeared more than a year ago. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Greta Van Susteren during Greta Van Susteren Book Signing at Barnes and Noble in New York City, NY, United States. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic)
Greta Van Susteren during Greta Van Susteren Book Signing at Barnes and Noble in New York City, NY, United States. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic)
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 18: U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) gestures as he shows the inaugural stage area to CNN network personality Greta Van Susteren on Capitol Hill as work continues in preparation for the upcoming presidential inauguration January 18, 2005 in Washington, DC. U.S. President George W. Bush will take his second oath of office January 20. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Arianna Huffington and Greta Van Susteren during Bloomberg After Party at Private Residence in Washington, District of Columbia, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 2987 -- Pictured: (l-r) Commentator Greta Van Susteren during an interview with host Jay Leno on August 11, 2005 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Greta Van Susteren during 2007 White House Correspondents Dinner - Bloomberg News After Party at Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington DC, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
Greta Van Susteren during FOX News Channel's 10th Anniversary VIP Party, Hosted by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at News Corporation building in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 07: Television personality Greta Van Susteren (C) and two u.s. Marines attend Stand Up For Heroes: A Benefit For The Bob Woodruff Family Fund at Town Hall on November 07, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Wintrow/Getty Images)
Greta Van Susteren poses for a photo at the Bloomberg Pre-White House Correspondents Dinner Cocktail Reception at the Washington Hilton on April 26, 2008 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) First lady Laura Bush, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren and Cindy McCain pose for a photo in the Fox News booth during day one of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center September 1, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The GOP will nominate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as the Republican choice for U.S. president on the last day of the convention. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 17: Fox News host Greta Van Susteren arrives for the funeral for former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow at the Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception July 17, 2008 in Washington, DC. U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush attended the funeral for Snow, who died Saturday after a long battle with colon cancer. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Greta Van Susteren and John P. Coale attend salute to Brit Hume at Cafe Milano on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 1: FOX News host Greta Van Susteren checks her camera after snapping a photo of former Vice President Dick Cheney as he speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Foundation's annual Journalism Awards on June 1, 2009 in Washington, DC. Cheney strongly defended the Bush administration's record on national security. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 09: Greta van Susteren and Todd Palin attends the Capitol File White House Correspondents' Dinner after party at Corcoran Gallery of Art on May 9, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jeff Snyder/FilmMagic)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 20: New York Mets vs Tampa Bay Rays. June 20, 2009. Saturday. Fox News Greta Van Susteren throws out ceremonial1st pitch. (Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 16: News Journalist Greta Van Susteren at the 'Kaleidoscope' rehearsal presented by sanofi-aventis US airing nationally on Thanksgiving Day on FOX at Verizon Center on November 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Edge Health)
WASHINGTON - MAY 01: Kim Kardashian (L) and FOX News host Greta Van Susteren arrive at the MSNBC Afterparty following the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on May 1, 2010 in Washington, DC. The annual dinner featured comedian Jay Leno and was attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Bristol Palin (L) and Greta Van Susteren attend the MSNBC Correspondents' after party with FIJI Water at Embassy of Italy on April 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The New Yorker)
Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren, actress Lindsay Lohan, center, and Susan Axelrod, chair and founding member of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), attend the 19th Annual White House Correspondents' Garden Brunch in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, April 28, 2012. This year's event will raise money for the CURE and The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood organizations. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren attends Celebrating The Arts In American Dinner Party With Distinguished Women In Media presented by Landmark Technology Inc. and The Creative Coalition at Neyla on April 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Landmark Technology Inc.)
Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren, right, and her husband John Coale attend the 20th Annual White House Correspondents' Garden Brunch in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, April 27, 2013. This year's event will honor the Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and the Miss America Foundation. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Greta Van Susteren poses on the red carpet during the Kevin Spacey Foundation Washington Gala Dinner at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on September 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Journalist Greta Van Susteren attends TIME and People's Annual White House Correspondents' Association Cocktail Party at St Regis Hotel on April 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Time and People )
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Commentator Greta Van Susteren attends the 2016 Forbes Women's Summit at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on May 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
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Read more: Megyn Kelly Faces Big NBC Challenges: "Daytime Is Brutal"

Doing so also would break with the more recent morning show trend of focusing on the group dynamic rather than promoting one star. But keeping Kelly in the news fold eliminates some of the risk. "She will need the promotional juice that Today confers in order to succeed," says another source. "They will want her showing up in the 8 a.m. hour of Today to tease her show."

The addition of Kelly — and, to a lesser extent, Van Susteren — also brings challenges and could destabilize the delicate anchor ego ecosystem. "Why didn't MSNBC try out one of its road warriors in the 7 p.m. slot?" asks Tyndall, referring to the female campaign troika of Hallie Jackson, Katy Tur and Kasie Hunt. (Sources say Jackson is expected to be named White House correspondent, while Tur likely will remain in New York.) NBC News locked Lauer and Guthrie into new long-term deals recently; and Guthrie's five-year pact was finalized in December before she went on maternity leave.

Though NBC pointedly did not include MSNBC in its plans for Kelly, some believe she may end up there, especially by the next election cycle. An industry source says if current plans for Kelly don't work out, MSNBC could be a "safety valve."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


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