Should MSNBC Be Worried About The Ed Show?

It has only been a week, but after a strong debut on Monday, Ed Schultz’s The Ed Show on MSNBC settled back into drawing the same number of viewers that the previous program had in that slot. Not even a special prime time edition of the program drew well. Does this mean that MSNBC needs to be worried about The Ed Show?

After posting a strong 825,000 viewers for his debut on Monday, he dropped to 602,000 total viewers on Tuesday, and the week only got worse on Wednesday and Thursday as he drew 406,000 total viewers on Wednesday, and only 498,000 viewers on Thursday. Some erosion from his debut numbers were to be expected, but Schultz lost almost half of his audience in four days, and I have my own theory as to why. Current events shows need to either have an appealing gimmick, or attract top guests to be successful, and so far The Ed Show has done neither.

A cause for optimism at MSNBC might be that they gave Schultz a night in Olbermann’s 8 PM ET time spot on Thursday, and he drew about 2/3 of Countdown’s audience. They can hope that this exposure leads to more viewers at 6 PM. The problem is that the network decided to do not an all new show for 8 PM, but a half new, half repeat episode. I understand the decision because the network was hoping that a half rerun might catch viewers who didn’t watch at 6 PM, but it a safe bet that those who watched the program at 6 tuned out at 8:30. A few people have also brought up the point that The Ed Show is a show directed at working people, but it airs when most people are still working.

After a week of watching The Ed Show, I can tell you that I found it dull. Schultz came off as just another blustering talking head. There was actually very little information on the program, and Schultz spent the week acting like the blue collar Larry King. He didn’t ask a single tough question, especially to Sen. Chris Dodd over the AIG bailouts. Chris Matthews did a much better job when Dodd was on Hardball. Dodd is going to be in a fight for his political life next year, but Schultz didn’t want to push him at all.

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This show has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it Lou Dobbs, or Keith Olbermann? I ask this because Schultz had right wing anti-immigrant and immigration Congressman Tom Tancredo on, and did not challenge him in the least, even when Tancredo suggested that the U.S. should cut legal immigration into the country. Tancredo is a Lou Dobbs favorite, which made me wonder if Schultz isn’t trying to be the liberal answer to Dobbs? Conservatives love to have their values and viewpoints reaffirmed in their media, but liberals are usually broader in their media tastes, which could be hurting Schultz.

It is still too early to tell which way, The Ed Show will go, but MSNBC has not been afraid to make changes at 6 PM. There have been three different shows in this slot in the past year. I think it is fair to ask if there is a place for a pro-union show in cable news.

Schultz’s show is the most pro-union in the MSNBC lineup, which ironically enough might make him too old school liberal for MSNBC’s younger audience, for whom unionization isn’t a big issue. I think that the show still has potential, but if The Ed Show doesn’t pick up viewers, it will be interesting to see how long MSNBC sticks with it.

(h/t: tvnewser for the ratings).

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