UPDATED: Following her upcoming maternity leave, the daytime anchor will make the move to the cable news network's top-rated evening block.
Megyn Kelly is heading to primetime. Fox News Channel announced Tuesday that the America Live anchor will leave her current post at the end of her upcoming maternity leave as part of a new long-term contract. The network has not yet revealed how this will alter the primetime schedule, which already includes hours toplined by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.
“Megyn is an exceptional talent who has successfully filled and surpassed each role we have given her at the network," said Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. "Her ability to command the screen, delve into the facts and lead a debate is what makes her one of the most sought-after anchors in the business.”
In addition to shifting Kelly, FNC also announced long-term pacts with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith, O’Reilly, Hannity and Van Susteren.
News of Kelly's primetime moves comes on the heels of her second-highest-rated quarter to date anchoring America Live. But despite her robust viewership average of 1.2 million during the quarter, America Live's 1 p.m. time slot is not the most visible -- and Kelly's profile has been on the rise.
Helming much of the network's primetime news coverage during the 2012 election cycle, Kelly anchored FNC's election night coverage where she famously butted heads with analyst Karl Rove when he challenged FNC's decision to call Ohio for incumbent Barack Obama. In a clip that went viral the next day, Kelly marched away from her desk and walked the FNC halls to confirm the reports with network number crunchers.
“Roger Ailes hired me nine years ago when I was new to this business, and he had little other than instinct to suggest it might work out," said Kelly. "I was grateful to him then, remain so today, and am excited for this next opportunity.”
The latest deal is a clear showing of Kelly's allegiance to the network -- and FNC's investment in her increasing popularity with viewers. Multiple news organizations showed interest in Kelly when her previous contract was set to expire this summer.
In April, Kelly spoke with THR about her relationship with Ailes. "The two people who have had the biggest influence on my professional life these past 10 years have been Roger Ailes and Brit Hume," she said. "Both believed in me when I was an untested, unproven young reporter. Roger helped me understand that the only way to succeed in television is by being authentic."
It has been speculated that Kelly might one day take over the 10 p.m. time slot occupied by Van Susteren. That hour, still topping cable news competition, does not rival the ratings powerhouses of commentators O'Reilly and Hannity at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m, respectively.
Kelly came to FNC in 2004 after working as a general assignment report for ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Syracuse University and Albany Law School, she previously worked as a corporate litigator at Jones Day before moving into broadcasting. Already a mother of two, Kelly is pregnant with her third child.