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Megyn Kelly Eyed To Erase Billy Bush Era At NBC News’ ‘Today’

Deadline logo Deadline 1/5/2017 Lisa de Moraes
© Provided by Deadline

We already might have the biggest TV news story of 2017 if NBC News follows through on replacing the Bush family member who got caught on tape giggling with Donald Trump about grabbing women by the pussy with the lawyer-turned-journalist who asked Trump to defend his demeaning remarks about women at the first GOP debate.

Today show chief/NBC News SVP Noah Oppenheim was very involved in wooing Kelly, an industry insider reports, which points to the Today show’s 9 AM timeslot, though another source cautions that the hour is not a lock.

On the other hand, it’s the slot in need of goosing. Season to date, Today is averaging 4.55 million viewers in its 7-9 AM timeslot, and 1.77M news demo viewers. ABC’s Good Morning America leads it in total viewers (4.65M), though it trails in news demo viewers (1.52M).

At 9 AM, however, when Today A-team hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie sign off and Live with Kelly takes over, the total-viewer gap between the two networks widens, while Today’s news-demo lead shrinks. Live with Kelly is averaging 3.3M viewers to Today’s 3.08M. In the news demo, Today averages 1.07M viewers ages 25-54 and Kelly Ripa’s show clocks 1.05M.

Bush was considered The Answer to the franchise’s 9 AM numbers problem back in May, when NBC News announced it was bringing him on board to beef up the hour, replacing Willie Geist. Special attention was paid at the time to his “boundless energy, great interviewing style and deep knowledge of pop culture.”

Bush’s job was to deliver to the 9 AM Today hour a morning audience that is 60% female. That became considerably more challenging in October, when millions of people began watching an endless loop of a 2005 Access Hollywood video in which Bush was heard cheering on Trump as the Celebrity Apprentice Firer-in-Chief boasted he’s so famous he can kiss women and grab their genitalia with impunity. NBC News suspended him because, Oppenheim told staff in a memo, “there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.” Days later, Bush was out.

Fast-forward three months: NBC News welcomed maybe the most talked-about TV journalist of the 2016 election cycle — the one who asked GOP White House hopeful Trump why women would vote for him after all the demeaning things he’d said publicly about women in the past. He gave a flip, well-received answer at the time and, the next day, told CNN’s Don Lemon in re Kelly, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever,” resting Kelly’s case, while catapulting her career.

Kelly already had tried out in the 9 AM timeslot; she co-hosted Live With Kelly the morning after Trump’s historic election and churned up record ratings for that daytime talker, placing it in the No. 1 spot for syndicated programs, ahead of Dr. Phil and Ellen. Kelly brought Ripa her biggest crowd since her former co-host Michael Strahan left for Good Morning America.

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