MSNBC Continues to Play “Small Ball”…

When word leaked out that MSNBC was planning on creating a show for Chris Hayes we wondered where there was room M-Fr for another show in the network’s lineup. Some of us looked at weekends as a possible destination and thought that the network might be finally going to look at doing something about its 5 hours of news followed by 20 hours of tape.

Well, we were right to look at weekends but wrong to think that this was going to mean more live programming. MSNBC chose what I consider the worst option available, it will continue to offer five hours of live programming Saturday and four on Sunday but cut news in half in favor of more political programming. And Alex Witt gets shafted in the process.

Witt’s 12 years at MSNBC is the longest (it would have been Chris Jansing had she not been sent packing to L.A. for two and a half years). Weekends have been her stomping grounds longer than any other anchor in the network’s history. During that time her no nonsense approach has made her a dependable cornerstone at the network. And how is she rewarded for this service? She gets her on air time cut in half. Can you say “screw job”?

This development was apparently not lost on the network which put out a release this afternoon where Phil Griffin spun Witt’s shafting by giving her a plug and saying how important she was to the network – a curious statement given that he was taking half of her on air time away. It reminded me of Yvette Miley’s internal memo spinning Jansing losing an hour of her air time as a benefit for her when it patently wasn’t.

It didn’t have to be this way. Witt deserved better. MSNBC could have put Hayes in his scheduled slot and extended her shift past noon. But, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…MSNBC just can’t disrupt all those Lockup episodes and Predator Raw repeats. NBC News has all but abandoned the Predator franchise on broadcast TV but years after its demise MSNBC continues to assault its viewers with repeats. Musn’t break tape on weekends. That should be MSNBC’s new catch phrase.

MSNBC continues to play “small ball”. Weekends have been a taped wasteland after 12pm. And they will continue to be so. Worse, the network is now offering five hours less news during the whole week. MSNBC was already offering the least amount of live news of the big three cable news channels.

I’m not going to comment on Hayes’ new show at this juncture. I want to see what it looks like first before I weigh in.

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12 Responses to “MSNBC Continues to Play “Small Ball”…”

  1. It certainly did appear to me that with the takeover/merger by Comcast that this “small ball” or tinkering at the edges would end. And that the travesty of the weekend shows would especially stop.

    I’m wondering at this point whether Phil Griffin has the ability to take MSNBC to the next level. He deserves credit for stabilizing things there and giving it a brand name.

    But at some point you have to think Comcast will demand more.

  2. I may not appreciate Rupert Murdoch’s approach to news, but he owns a cable news channel, and programs NEWS on it on the weekends. MSNBC has always had a parent company focused on the bottom line. As long as Lockup gets decent ratings for very little outlay, you can forget MSNBC weekends.

  3. The Chris Hayes show would be good in the noon-2pm eastern slot. They could have done the show from Washington instead of having him move to NY to do the show.

    Who knows. Maybe if he does well, they’ll give Witt back the entire morning and move Hayes to a slot currently occupied by tape.

  4. This looks like a low risk way to test out a new show, work out the bugs and see what the reviews are like. There will be no way to compare ratings and if they are low you can just say it’s because it’s Saturday AM. if the show takes off you move it to a better slot and if it doesn’t you pull the plug and move on.

  5. Perhaps the calculation for MSNBC is that, between CNN & FNC, cable “news” is well covered and their own organisation’s “news” revenues come from their broadcast network. They can have a more captive audience with political punditry programming and only maintain enough “news” so to be able to claim “news channel” status.

    Similar argument from a different perspective: Why doesn’t the Fox broadcast network have a “news” division with nightly programmes and prime-time news magazine shows? I’d guess because it’s an expensive undertaking for going after an audience they already get. Samey-same for NBCUniversal.

  6. Good point, fritz. Now that you mention it, this show is definitely being used as a trial and error to see how Hayes performs. It’s just good to see them finally add something to the weekends. To me, it’s a start.

    But, I’ll admit that Spud’s analysis definitely convinced me on the way Witt unfairly got shafted. Unless she requested it to be like this, it’s the kind of move that makes you upset with your employer. The one good thing for her, however, is that her show is branded with her name on the title.

  7. lonestar77 Says:

    If Alex Witt is so darn good (I’m not very familiar with her) and she keeps getting shafted, why wouldn’t she bolt to another network? You would think others would see this and would try to steal her away.

  8. Alex Witt Is a competent experienced anchor who, at 50, is on the tail end of her ‘on air’ career. She might be picked up by CNN or some local station if she left but is more likely to disappear completely from TV.

    I would assume she gets the same pay even if she works fewer hours and I doubt she feels ‘screwed’ but rather lucky to have an on air job at her age. She may deserve better but in the world of cable TV, deserve and receive are not the same thing.

  9. They should have put Chris Hayes at 12-2pmet on weekends or better yet get rid of that stupid Harball replay at 7PMET which serves no purpouse and 6pmet is still free still . That’s stupid how they moved Alex Witt

  10. Fifty isn’t all that old for female news anchors, Fritz. A good number of the Fox News babes are within a year or three of that.

  11. Spud,

    I agree with you, but it’s probably cheaper union-wise to launch a show in that window since workers would be there. If the show doesn’t work out they cancel it quietly. But MS does now need to expand into weekends. Now that their 2nd [lace, it’s embarrassing not to be investing in weekend programming.

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