MSNBC hit a new level of tone deaf by deciding to keep the show that viewers despise (Morning Joe) while threatening to cancel or move everything else that isn’t Rachel Maddow.
The extent of that change could be vast: In the months ahead, MSNBC is likely to shake up the bulk of its programming, moving some shows and canceling others, high-level sources at NBCUniversal told POLITICO. With a few exceptions — notably “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe” — every program is at risk of being moved or canceled, those sources said. “All In with
Chris Hayes,” a ratings suck that currently occupies the 8 p.m. time slot, will almost certainly be replaced. Network execs are also considering moving some weekday shows, like “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton,” to weekends. “The plan is to re-imagine what the channel is,” one high-level NBCUniversal insider with knowledge of the network’s plans said, “because the current lineup is a death wish.”
For some NBC insiders, the failure of “All In” — Hayes is a distant third place to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, both in total and in the demo — is indicative of the limits of Griffin’s reactive approach to programming. Unlike Ailes, Griffin didn’t set out to create a partisan network because he believed in the ideology. He did it because it made sense from a business perspective. Olbermann was popular, so he gave Maddow a show. Maddow was popular, so he gave Hayes a show. The problem is that not every disciple is as good as the mentor. Maddow was a groundbreaking liberal voice, an entertainer and the first openly gay prime-time news anchor. Hayes was just a smart kid from Brown University.
It is important to note that MSNBC was never liberal due to an ideological belief. MSNBC went left because there was money to be made in serving the underserved liberal cable news audience. This change has nothing to do with Comcast. It is all about the fact that MSNBC has been losing money. Comcast would turn MSNBC into a 24-hour liberal lovefest if it made them more money. Viewers may care about ideology, but profits are the only thing that matters to corporations.
The report goes on to state that beyond the axing of All In, Al Sharpton, and Ed Schultz are going to banished to the weekends. Chris Matthews and Hardball are among the top three most watched shows on the network, so it doubtful that Hardball will be canceled or moved.
Viewer complaints about the three-hour Republican propaganda centered around Morning Joe are always going to fall on deaf ears. The network bosses love Scarborough, so until viewership plunges even more, Morning Joe is not going anywhere. Rachel Maddow hosts the one show on the network that is capable of drawing a respectable audience. It will be interesting to see if the network moves Maddow to 8 PM as has been previously reported, or if they take a different approach to building primetime around her.
The changes that look to be written in stone are more hours of news anchored by NBC News, the shuffling of Schultz and Sharpton off to the weekends, the canceling of Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes, and it has long been suspected that Lawrence O’Donnell and The Last Word will be replaced.
The reason viewers don’t watch MSNBC for breaking news is that the network doesn’t do news. Phil Griffin took MSNBC so far into the realm of opinion that viewers stopped going there for their news.
The changes at MSNBC do not represent a failure of liberal media. MSNBC’s problem is that it has become stale and boring. The network is full of hosts who use the same format and discuss the same issues. There is nothing, outside of Maddow; that is different and exciting in MSNBC’s programming.
There is still a huge and vastly underserved audience for liberal news. The lesson that can be taken from MSNBC’s faceplant is that liberals are also people who want to be entertained. The biggest change that needs to happen at MSNBC is that top management beginning with Phil Griffin needs to be replaced.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association