Fox News rising star Megyn Kelly is going to take over the prime-time slot currently helmed by talk superstar Sean Hannity, a huge shift in the conservative news channel's programming, according to the Drudge Report.
"It's all about Megyn," an inside source at Fox told Drudge. "She is the new face of cable news. She has it all!"
It would be the first major prime-time change in the leading cable news channel's lineup in a decade.
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So far, no other major news organization is reporting the item. Matt Drudge cited anonymous "top sources" in his report Thursday afternoon, adding that the announcement would be made later in August.
Fox issued a statement shortly after the Drudge Report story appeared:
"We will neither confirm nor deny any programming schedule changes. As previously stated, the network has signed long-term deals with Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren."
But it's clear changes are coming. The big question is, where does Hannity go? He is signed to a long-term contract that will reportedly keep him on the network through the 2016 election, the Huffington Post reported. Fox prime-time's other stars, Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren, are also locked in to years-long contracts.
Ailes, in an interview with Neil Cavuto this afternoon, said "all of our stars will be back," and called the Drudge story a rumor.
“Hannity is a brand that many of our viewers love and want to see, and as you know, is one of the nicest guys in the building," Ailes said. Ailes added that he was having conversations with Shepard Smith about "a new way to deliver news," raising questions about Smith's 7 p.m. time slot.
Kelly would attract a slightly younger, more female audience to Fox, Tobe Berkovitz, an associate professor of advertising at Boston University, tells Newsmax.
"She probably would appeal to the Sean Hannity audience, but would probably broaden that appeal out to other demographics — women, perhaps viewers who are a little younger — but what it would do is not drive a lot of people away from the slot because it is still Fox," he said.
"What this current story tells you is that Fox has a really strong bench," Berkovitz added. "Fox has a lot of in-house, strong talent — and they're trying to maximize how they're going to try to stay on top for the next several years, especially through the 2016 presidential election."
He also ruled out Fox putting Kelly and Hannity together.
"You have to be very careful. People with strong personalities, you could be risking a blow-up —and you're causing damage to two big names," Berkovitz tells Newsmax. "You want to be careful in trying to team them up."
Recently, Van Susteren responded to rumors that she would be bumped by Kelly by saying she had a contract for a daily, prime-time show, the Huffington Post reported.
CNN's Piers Morgan responded quickly to the news that Kelly would become his new competition this fall.
She is currently on maternity leave after giving birth in July to her third child, but is expected to start her new show once her leave is finished.
Here is Morgan's tweet,
giving a link to the Drudge Report’s announcement:
Eric Bolling, a Fox News colleague, also congratulated Kelly, t
tweeting "ALERT!.. some bad news for Rachel!", referring to MSNBC's 9 p.m. anchor Rachel Maddow.
The other Fox prime time stars, Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are also signed into contracts that stretch out over several years.
Van Susteren has been denying all summer
that she's about to leave her prime-time show, "On the Record," which runs at 10 p.m. EST.
The rumors started after media reports said she had initiated talks with CNN earlier this spring in hopes of returning to the network where she'd been a legal analyst from 1994 to 2002, and were further spurred when Fox announced Kelly was leaving daytime to join the prime-time lineup.
Fox hasn't changed its prime-time lineup in a decade except for after the 2008 election, when Hannity's liberal foil, Alan Colmes, left the "Hannity and Colmes" show. The last major change occurred when Van Susteren left CNN and took over the 10 p.m. slot held by Paula Zahn in January 2002.
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The news comes just after Cumulus Media said it plans to cut ties
with both Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, their two most highly-rated conservative radio hosts, after talks broke down with Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes their shows.
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