Megyn Kelly is managing expectations for her move to NBC — up to a point.
“Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” which debuts June 4 on NBC, isn’t going to be number one right away, she tells CNNMoney. “Nobody expects to be beating ’60 Minutes.”
But minutes later, Kelly is touting a track record of success: “This is the fourth show I’ve launched,” she says. “I have a history of being able to hold. [My previous] shows were fine on day one, but they were nothing on day one like they were once I was done with them after a couple of years.”
Turning “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” into the nation’s premiere news magazine is very much the goal. Success, as Kelly defines it, means doing a show “that looks and feels different from every show that’s out there, that connects people to one another, that offers good journalism, that is respected.”
“Sunday Night” will run through the summer, then go on hiatus to make way for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” In September, Kelly will launch her 9 a.m. weekday show. Next February, she’ll start hosting both at the same time.
“Hopefully by then, I’ll know what the hell I’m doing,” she says.
In an interview last week, Kelly spoke about her ambitions for “Sunday Night,” her first interviews — including Russian President Vladimir Putin, sports correspondent Erin Andrews and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance — and the troubles at her alma mater, Fox News.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
CNNMoney: So, give me your elevator pitch for “Sunday Night.”
KELLY: Long-form journalism is a luxury for the viewers and the correspondents. To have the time to tell a story and tell it right is a luxury that we can afford ourselves and we can afford our viewers. If you can do it in a way that is both serious and hard-hitting, but also has heart, it’s a special art form. You’ll see that in the show. You’ll feel a lot. Honestly, you’ll cry. You may feel outraged. You’ll feel uplifted. You’ll feel informed. If the viewer can walk away feeling better connected with their fellow human beings, we’ve done our jobs. And they will.
There have been a lot of news magazine shows that failed, like “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” or that failed to match “60 Minutes.” What makes “Sunday Night” different?
This is a chance to tell more in-depth stories, but to do it in a new and fresher way, Perhaps a little bit more cutting edge.
Define “cutting edge.”
There is a way of delivering news that feels fresh and surprising and perhaps a little irreverent, that we don’t have a ton of on television right now. I’m a strong believer that you can do a serious story with a sense of humor and you can do a funny story with gravitas. If you know how to translate that onto television it tends to be a winning formula.
The [producers overseeing this show] know how to do this kind of program. [NBC News chairman] Andy Lack knows how to do this kind of program. I know how to do a good interview. So do the correspondents on this show. It’s incredible who we have, it’s the biggest names on NBC. But nobody expects to be beating “60 Minutes.” We’re realistic. We’re not looking over our shoulder at them, we’re looking at ourselves and trying to put on a show that is dynamic and compelling and connects.
Give me your top three bookings.
[On Erin Andrews]: I predict all of America is going to fall in love with her, because she’s just been through so much and is very open — not just about the stalking scare she had, where she was secretly videotaped, but the cancer she had and what that was like. She’s really been through the ringer.
[On J.D. Vance]: Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that interview and thought about him. I think the viewers will feel that too… This piece got to the man, and got to what he’s actually experienced… We sat with him and his sister and some other family members and it was just chilling.
[On Vladimir Putin]: Next week we’re going off to St. Petersburg to talk to Mr. Putin, so that ought to be interesting.
Why start “Sunday Night” before the 9 a.m. show?
I’m grateful they’re doing it that way, because I have had the opportunity to just focus on the one and to do a lot of leg work to get it off on the right foot. When I’m doing Monday through Friday, it’s going to be a lot tougher for me to do so much traveling. When this show goes off the air for “Sunday Night Football,” then I can just focus on my daytime show. Then hopefully by February, by the time I have to do them both, by then I’ll know what the hell I’m doing. It won’t be so hard.
Roger Ailes recently passed away. What was your reaction to his death?
I don’t want to comment on that publicly. I said what I wanted to say about our relationship, the good and the bad, in my book. And I’m just going to leave it at that.
What about Bill O’Reilly’s ouster at Fox News?
No comment. You can print it exactly like that.
And the future of Fox News?
I have a lot of dear friends still at Fox News, and I know that there are a lot of great journalists there who work very hard every day to put great news stories, honestly presented, on the air. But there’s no question that this has been a tough time for Fox, and it’s a rebuilding year for them. I have no doubt that they will find their footing and do just fine. They’ve got 20 years of history to prove that.
One year from now, how will you measure success?
I feel like if we can do a show that looks and feels different from every show that’s out there, that connects people to one another, that offers good journalism, that is respected, we’ve succeeded.
There’s people at a higher pay grade than my own that will worry about the ratings and all that. But NBC has been great about saying publicly and saying to me, too: “We’re not going to be perfect on Day One. We’re not going to be first place on Day Two.” But we’re well positioned. I think Andy Lack said, “I’d rather be holding our cards than anyone else’s.”
This is the fourth show I’ve launched. I launched “America’s Newsroom,” I launched “America Live,” I launched “The Kelly File.” Now I guess this is four and five. So I have a history of being able to hold. Those shows were fine on day one, but they were nothing on day one like they were once I was done with them after a couple of years.
So people have to be patient with a new television product, because in general people don’t like change. I’m one of them. But as long as they’re open minded and give you a chance, then it’s up to me to earn their respect and show them a product that they find enjoyable, and I have no doubt I will.