NEW YORK - Fox News Channel said Tuesday that Megyn Kelly will soon move into prime time, and the palace intrigue about who — if anyone — she will displace on cable news’ most popular and stable lineup begins.
Ms. Kelly, a former lawyer, has been a rising star at Fox. She has hosted the two-hour news program “America Live” at 1 p.m. Eastern since 2010 and co-anchored convention and election night coverage with Bret Baier during the last election season.
Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said Ms. Kelly will move into prime time when she returns from maternity leave. It’s not clear when that will be: She announced in February that she is due to give birth to her third child this summer, but it’s unknown how long she will be off.
“Megyn is an exceptional talent who has successfully filled and surpassed each role we have given her at the network,” Mr. Ailes said. “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.”
Fox also said Tuesday that it has signed long-term deals with its biggest stars: Bret Baier, Shepard Smith, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.
The prime-time lineup of O’Reilly at 8 p.m., Hannity at 9 p.m. and Van Susteren at 10 p.m. hasn’t changed in more than a decade, except when Hannity’s former liberal foil, Alan Colmes, left the show after the 2008 election. Mr. Baier hosts an hour-long newscast at 6, and Shepard Smith does his own news program at 7.
“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,” Ms. Kelly said. “I was grateful to him then, remain so today, and am excited for this next opportunity.”
Fox said a new schedule will be announced later and gave no other details.
Fox’s announcement came one day after news website Mediaite reported that Ms. Van Susteren had met with new CNN boss Jeff Zucker this spring about a return to the network where she had once worked. CNN would not comment on that report Tuesday, and Ms. Van Susteren’s agent did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Ailes is known not to take kindly to perceived acts of disloyalty. When he learned in 2001 that one of his prime-time hosts, Paula Zahn, had received an offer from CNN, he immediately fired her. Mr. Ailes minimized Ms. Zahn’s ratings success at Fox in a news article, saying a “dead raccoon” could have done just as well.
Of Fox’s prime-time hosts, Ms. Van Susteren’s show is the only one where viewership has declined this year from 2012, down 4 percent to 1.57 million, according to the Nielsen company. All of the hosts have lost viewers among the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that is key to advertising sales, but Ms. Van Susteren’s 23 percent decline was the steepest.
Still, Mr. Ailes made it a point to say that Ms. Van Susteren, one of Fox’s busiest presences in social media, has a new long-term deal with the network.