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NBC News Chief Lack Sees Gradual Build for Megyn Kelly

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Megyn Kelly developed a reputation for vanquishing her time-slot competition while holding forth at Fox News Channel. NBC has hopes for more of the same – but does not expect number-one status right away.

Speaking at a meeting Tuesday with NBC affiliates, NBC News and MSNBC Chairman Andrew Lack offered a humble outlook for Kelly’s initial performance in a Sunday newsmagazine slated to launch in June and a new morning show set to launch in the fall, according to a person present at the executive gathering.

“There are very few news organizations adding programs right now. We have a complete reset of the 9 a.m. hour coming with Megyn, and a new offering on Sunday night at 7 p.m.,” Lack said, according to this person. “It’s not going to be perfect on Day One, and we’re not going to be in first place on Day Two – but I’d rather be holding our cards than anyone else’s.”

Kelly left her “Kelly File” on Fox News in January. She made her first public appearance on behalf of NBCUniversal at that company’s upfront presentation to advertisers on Monday.

NBC News is placing a big bet on Kelly: She will compete with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sundays in June, with a newsmagazine produced by “Dateline” overseers David Corvo and Liz Cole. And she will vie on the schedule with two of TV’s most enduring personalities — Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest — on weekday mornings.

The TV networks’ morning scrum has always been most frenetic during the hours between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., when “Today,” “Good Morning America,” and “CBS This Morning” duke it out for the toast-and-eggs crowd. But the networks’ move to pit Kelly against Ripa and Seacrest could focus new attention on the time slot that follows those programs.

Rival executives have taken notice of the attention being accorded Kelly. “‘We won’t take too many shots at Megyn Kelly,” said CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, speaking to reporters about that network’s upfront presentation Wednesday morning.

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