Just a few months ago, she was riding high on TV airwaves, bringing news to people’s living rooms in her signature fashion, and wowing her fans and haters alike.
Betty Kyalo, described by some as the drama queen of TV industry, was slowly becoming the real queen of TV in Kenya by blending flamboyance and a simple personality while at KTN and her latest station, K24 television.
Drama queen or slayqueen?
If she honed her skills at KTN, she perfected the art of casual news presentation at K24, which tapped her to shore up eyeballs. It’s a trend most news anchors are trying to pick to lighten weekend news.
Her ratings were trending high, even if K24 wasn’t growing viewers as much, and she had joined – or even headed beyond – the league of top TV anchors in Kenya including Citizen TV’s Lilian Muli and Victoria Rubadiri, among others.
On a general scale, at her recent peak, Betty rivaled big guns in TV like Jeff Koinange, Hussein Mohammed and Yvonne Okwara-Matole. On digital influencer rating by Geopoll, she came in fifth after Jalan’go,Njugush The Comedian,Eric Omondi and Size 8, beating other media personalities like Jeff Koinange and Daniel Dambuki, aka Churchill.
Then, suddenly, the world of TV came tumbling down on her. Soon she started struggling to prop up K24 weekend news, and succeeded to a certain level. Somehow the station began attracting more viewers, but no fast enough to have an impact on its fortunes and assure her job.
Hers was not an easy task, however. She was up tougher rivals like Citizen, her former employer KTN and NTV, armed with huge budgets, superior equipment and teams as well as more media outlets for self-marketing.
Popular online, lonely on screen
Instead of watching TV on weekend evenings, most of her fans would watch other stations offering and later check out her shows on YouTube. Not exactly what K24 managers had in mind when hiring.
Pressure kept mounting on her, especially given the higher salary she bargained for to leave KTN. A lay-off came in 2019 October but she survived, getting a lifeline to prove herself. Things did not change much. Her presence at K24 was waning, and so was that of her colleague Ann Kiguta, who was tapped from Citizen TV to juice up the week with a Punchline political talk show that soon ran into headwinds
Either someone thought Betty wasn’t doing a good enough job or she simply got tired trying to excite an audience that was slow to convert. It remains unclear whether she actually resigned or she was, in fact, fired like many other employees at Mediamax Networks Ltd, the company that owns K24, People Daily and a host of radio stations.
Salary cut blues
Just days after announcing to her audience on 29th May that she would be leaving, Mediamax pushed out over 100 employees, citing Covid-19 effects and the need for restructuring. Betty was among employees who had signed a petition that ended up barring the company from implementing a 50% cut on salaries to cover for Covid-19. They felt the company, led by CEO Ken Ngaruiya, was using Coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to cut its payroll.
See Also >> Betty Kyalo – Just Petty or Real Drama Queen?
The matter went to court and the employees won. That, of course left a bitter taste in the employer’s mouth. Something had to give. Among those who signed the petitioned and were pushed out are Felix Odiwuor aka Jalang’o, then a presenter on Milele FM as well as K24 senior editors.
Down but not out
Off the screen Betty Kyalo has taken a low profile even as her former colleagues land new jobs. Jalang’o ended up at Kiss FM and Lincolin Njogu at Kiambu County while others were snapped by other stations. Initially, there were rumours that she would be joining NTV, but that has yet to pass.
Lately, she has focused on her YouTube channel as a Vlogger and running her business, Flair By Betty. On YouTube she has launched a series of native marketing interviews and appears to have started off quite well on endorsements.
Betty Kyalo in pictures – always happy and charming
But Betty Kyalo remains typical Betty: simple, flamboyant and always smiling even when she should be sulking. Many TV personalities tossed out of TV studios are finding a soft landing online. Analysts say there’s a lot of money to be made in the digital space. Just ask Jalango, who revealed recently he makes close to Ksh5 million per month from social media.
Appetite for the screen
Betty, still young and pretty, still has more appetite for TV. It will not be surprising if she negotiates a deal and returns to the screens. But the modern day newsroom has become volatile and respects no talent or status when it comes to balancing numbers.
Good thing for her is, she looks the type to swallow humble pie and even decide to go for a smaller TV station to relaunch her TV career and move up the scales again – just like Jeff Koinange did. After being kicked out of CNN, Jeff Koinange helped launch K24 and, at some point, people thought it was his investment. He then made his mark there and wormed his way into KTN and now Citizen TV.
Betty, however, doesn’t have to follow Jeff’s script. She can chart her on comeback or, like many others before her, move onto other things. After all, there’s life outside the newsroom.