Why Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich Will Help Cable News Ratings
Fox News recently announced that America Live host, Megyn Kelly, will be getting her own prime-time show beginning this Fall. For fans like myself, this was great news. I've long recognized Kelly as a standout performer on the network, and there's something almost prideful in watching someone like her rise up through the ranks of their profession through a lot of hard work, real talent, and proven integrity. She'll be a real asset in her new position.
Though Fox News still dominates the cable news ratings, the truth is that their prime-time lineup (including The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity) isn't pulling quite as strong of numbers as it once did. Megyn Kelly's afternoon show, however, has added to its audience over time, and has led the way in increased daytime viewership for the network. Clearly, this didn't go unnoticed by Fox executives.
Promoting Kelly to prime-time was smart. What she brings to the table is the capacity to bring in new viewers who typically wouldn't tune into the network during that time because they're turned off by the often overbearing style of Bill O'Reilly and the overt partisanship of Sean Hannity. Kelly obviously won't be replacing either of those personalities (my guess is that Greta Van Susteren will be the one taking the hit), but she will surely add some freshness and variety to the line-up.
Kelly has set herself aside as someone who is very much in touch with the concerns of her viewers. She listens to them, and does an excellent job of pinning down guests with the questions people want answers to. It's clear in her presentation that she researches stories exhaustively, and unlike many in the business, she's more concerned with getting the story right than being right. Sadly, that's a real rarity today.
How will that style translate to a time-slot in which much of the opinionated analysis on all cable news networks is loud, animated, and ideologically-driven? I actually think she'll carve out her own niche quite well.
Likeability and charm aside, Kelly has a genuineness and strong moral presence about her that lets her make a real connection with people. It's not all that different, really, than how people once viewed Oprah Winfrey. That's a good thing, and that factor should draw in a prime-time audience more diverse than the one Fox News typically attracts.
Fox isn't the only news network mixing up their prime-time programming. CNN recently announced that they'll be resurrecting Crossfire, their once very popular program that pitted opposing sides of the political spectrum against each other, on equal footing, in sharp debate.
The return of this format to prime-time isn't all that exciting in itself. After all, CNN tried it a couple of years ago with Parker Spitzer, which was a colossal flop. What might make this attempt different, however, is that former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, will be representing the conservative side of the table.
One of the reasons news networks other than Fox have long struggled to attract conservative-thinking viewers is because they don't feature individuals, in important roles, that conservatives respect. This is primarily due to the liberal bubble of like-mindedness that surrounds the media industry. The industry largely doesn't understand the conservative viewpoint. They're hostile to it, and they don't take it serious enough or lend it enough credibility to accurately represent it.
The acquisition of Gingrich, however, shows that CNN may finally be learning something from their past mistakes. Gingrich is one the most competent and compelling voices for conservatism that we have in this country today. Mitt Romney certainly figured this out, much to his dismay, back during the 2012 primaries.
While most of the media presents the conservative argument as a lone, defensive voice against a merciless onslaught of leftist, bumper-sticker cliches, that's not what CNN will be getting with Gingrich. Gingrich has become well known as a man who outright rejects the premises and sensibilities of the liberal media culture, and has a knack for taking ownership of the narratives on big issues.
By making Gingrich one of Crossfire's hosts (and not merely a guest), I think CNN may finally be giving people like me a reason to tune into their network.
You know, with MSNBC recently falling back into last place among the cable news networks, one would think that they would be announcing big changes to their programming as well. They haven't, and I don't expect them to. MSNBC has demonstrated a complete inability to address ratings-slumps and credibility-problems with anything other than a revolving door of snarky, left-wing-media activists dedicated to promoting and defending the Obama administration.
There was a time, after Comcast came in, when I was hopeful that the network might actually mend its ways. That's clearly not going to happen... And how ironic is it that an entity that has invested itself so deeply in the platitude of "change" absolutely refuses to do so itself?
Their continued losses will hopefully be the other networks' gains.