The news that Megyn Kelly would be leaving Fox and settling down at NBC surprised many (especially, apparently, Tamron Hall), but in a piece for Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison moves the story forward, exploring what she calls NBC's "star power as business model" gamble. The crystal ball is murky on that front, not only involving Kelly, but also on the topic of another high-profile talent on the network's roster: longtime employee Matt Lauer, the Today show co-host who's been with NBC for upward of two decades and commands what's believed to be about $25 million a year. (Kelly will be receiving a $15 million-plus salary.) And while it's tempting to pit these personalities against each other, there's another player in the mix: an increasing audience exodus away from morning TV.
Ellison delves into Lauer's past with the network—including his first big interview with then-first lady Hillary Clinton—his interviewing skills (Ellison notes NBC Chair Andy Lack "once noted that Lauer could interview a fire hydrant and be interested in it"), his revolving lineup of co-anchors (including the uncomfortable ouster of Ann Curry), and his ability to escape "unscathed" through most controversy. "If Matt Lauer dropped dead tomorrow, there is no heir apparent, and that is why Matt can drive the price of what they pay him," one ex-NBC exec says. Kelly's arrival doesn't necessarily threaten Lauer's status. Instead, she represents NBC's "doubling down" on its personality-catering strategy, Ellison writes, adding: "There used to be only one person at NBC News who was too big to fail. Now there are two." More on the NBC intricacies here. (Some felt Kelly's move was a major misstep.)