NBC's Megyn Kelly 3rd in total viewers, 2nd in demo in Sunday debut

NBC's Megyn Kelly got off to the modest start in the ratings race with her Sunday night news magazine debut, finishing third in total viewers behind ABC's NBA Finals pregame special and a rerun of "60 Minutes" on CBS.

Kelly fared better in the key 18-49 demographic that advertisers covet most, coming in second.

According to Nielsen data, "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," which included an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, drew a 0.8 rating in the demographic and 6.1 million total viewers at 7 p.m.

Kelly's direct competition, “60 Minutes," drew a 0.6 rating in the demographic but totaled 6.6 million viewers.

"60 Minutes" is expected to be in repeats for most of the summer.

ADVERTISEMENT
ABC's coverage of the NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, featuring a pregame special with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, easily topped NBC and CBS, delivering 8.2 million total viewers and a 2.7 rating in the demographic.

Kelly did perform decidedly better than NBC's average in the time slot last summer, up 33 percent from 2016 in the 18-49 demographic and 69 percent in total viewers.

The 46-year-old one-time attorney was signed by NBC in January for a reported annual salary of $17 million per year.

She left Fox News after a 13-year run at the network that included her being the second-highest rated program in cable news in 2016, only behind the now-ended "O'Reilly Factor."

Reviews of Kelly's interview with Putin mostly ranged from tepid to snarky.

"Megyn Kelly gets outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin on her NBC premiere 'Sunday Night,'" read The Los Angeles Times.

"Megyn Kelly gets off to low-key start on 'Sunday Night,'" CNN said.

"Even Putin Seemed Bored with Megyn Kelly's Interview," was Variety's take.

But respected media critic David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun had a different perspective, writing Monday that while the Putin interview was underwhelming, Kelly's future at NBC News looks bright.

"While the morning-after reviews are all going to focus on what she did or didn’t get from Putin, I think the real news here is that NBC might finally have a winning newsmagazine," Zurawik writes. "It is too early to tell after just one hour, but 'Sunday Night' is sharply focused in content and storytelling on women at a time of cultural change in terms of gender and power."

It tells stories about women and it is clearly speaking first and foremost to them from Kelly to the correspondents. In terms of its orientation, it’s on the right side of history — or, at least, the moment," he added.

"Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" will run through the summer until the top-rated "Sunday Night Football" kicks off in September.

The program will return after the NFL season and NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics are complete in February.

Kelly's second program on the network will debut in September at 9:00 a.m., following "The Today Show."