MSNBC Unexpectedly Shakes Up Primetime

MSNBC suddenly announced this afternoon that it’s flipping The Ed Show and The Last Word. This all but confirms MSNBC is worried about the new CNN lineup. Recall that less than a month ago the New York Times’ Bill Carter wrote about CNN gaining on MSNBC. MSNBC President Phil Griffin said at the time…

He added, “I’m confident that we will increase our ratings as politics become the dominant story over the next year.”

Apparently Griffin wasn’t confident enough with the status quo however. Recall this part of Carter’s piece which I believe may be key to understanding today’s news…

More ominously, the falloff for Mr. O’Donnell seems to be affecting MSNBC’s biggest name, Rachel Maddow. Her audience dropped 15 percent this year, to 245,000 from 289,000. She still beats Piers Morgan on CNN in the 9 p.m. hour, but his show has improved 18 percent over Larry King’s ratings last year, with 193,000 viewers to Mr. King’s 164,000.

For what it’s worth I agree with the move. Ed Schulz, say what you will (and I’m not a fan), has far more fire and brimstone than Lawrence O’Donnell and that’s a better fit for 8pm. But, the onus is still on CNN to show it can overtake MSNBC. Because it’s obvious Phil Griffin isn’t just going to lie down and watch Ken Jautz speed past him.

Presumably this means Ed goes to 5 nights a week and Lawrence goes back to 4.

Here’s MSNBC’s announcement…




NEW YORK – October 19, 2011 – Starting Monday, October 24 th , “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” will move back to its original time slot of 10 p.m. ET/PT, Monday-Thursday. “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz will lead off MSNBC’s primetime lineup each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The announcement was made today by Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC. “The Rachel Maddow Show” will continue to air live at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

“This move will strengthen the flow of our programming throughout the evening. As the name implies, “The Last Word” belongs at the conclusion of our programming day, thoughtfully wrapping-up the day’s political dialogue,” said Griffin. “Ed’s passionate voice is a perfect kick off to primetime at 8 p.m.”

“The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” debuted in September 2010 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MSNBC and moved to the 8 p.m. ET/PT time slot in January 2011. “The Ed Show” launched in April 2009 at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC and replaced “The Last Word” at 10 pm ET/PT in January 2011.

Izzy Povich is the senior executive producer of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and Greg Kordick is executive producer. Rich Stockwell is the executive producer of “The Ed Show.”


26 Responses to “MSNBC Unexpectedly Shakes Up Primetime”

  1. — As the name implies.. —

    ..and as the doctor observed, how long did it take them to notice that? I’m sure Ailes is impressed.

  2. Bill-O will never notice.

  3. “Presumably this means Ed goes to 5 nights a week and Lawrence goes back to 4.”

    ^It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the major reason for the move. Ed was not happy to lose a hour of broadcast time and LOD had contracted to only do four days because he wanted to go to the west coast on Friday. Ed’s numbers are reasonable and so the move to 8PM seems to post little risk on the ratings front.

    I will have to check out AC 360 earlier now as Ed is not my cup of tea.

  4. I’m glad they did this as the line up now has a better flow to it, and something I would’ve done from the beginning if I was in charge. LOD and Maddow worked well together, and you need a loud mouth at 8PM to go up against fox/bill. 8PM is where the bulldogs play. I’m not an Ed fan but it makes more sense. I tune into Piers once and awhile, but i just don’t see CNN gaining as much as the media makes it over the long haul. Unless it’s breaking news, it’s they only ratings trend CNN has.

  5. “Bill-O will never notice.”

    You can add me to that list. In fact, I’ll get 99.99% of cable news viewers won’t notice either.

  6. savefarris Says:

    I was under the impression Ed wasn’t allowed to be released into the general public during daylight hours…

  7. So let’s see, I watch Hardball on the West Coast at 2, so skip Sharpton, skip the re-air of Hardball, skip, that’s a long stretch for someone who used to leave it on MSNBC most of the time while I’m working. If they’re trying to deliver liberal viewers to Current as it expands, this is the way to do it.

  8. Josh Kaib Says:

    I think this is partly ratings, party because LOD wants to work 4 days a week. He’s not someone who will be in cable news for a decade. He feels more at home on Hollywood, and I can’t blame him for preferring the good life away from the daily back and forth of cable news primetime.

    Honestly this would have been a great opportunity for MSNBC to embrace its progressive identity and kill the Friday doc block. While they are at it, stop re-airing Hardball. Expand Dayside by an hour, move Bashir and Ratigan back an hour, and have Hardball live (or even taped like O’Reilly) at 7. Heck, but Harball at 6 and have Sharpton as Ed’s lead-in. Anything to fix up MSNBC stupid way of scheduling shows.

  9. This schedule works better for what I like to watch on MSNBC. I always felt LOD and Rachel back to back was a little too much downtime after an upbeat show with Matthews and before more firepower with Ed. This definitely flows a lot better and pleases LOD’s wish to have that last day off to travel to the west coast.

  10. Josh Kaib Says:

    Has Keith Olbermann taken credit for this move yet?

  11. Has Keith Olbermann taken credit for this move yet?

    Soon, grasshopper.

  12. best move would have been Sharpton to 2:00AM

  13. Olby, in all seriousness, tweeted this today about his ratings: “Actually, coming up right behind CNN at 8.”

    Yeah, I’m sure he’s RIGHT behind CNN.

  14. Josh Kaib Says:

    “Right behind” could mean a lot of things. Technically, in cable news ratings, he probably is positioned “right behind” as in 5th place.

    Olby, of course, is trying to counteract the stories about his low numbers by implying that he is close in viewership to CNN. In reality he is far behind CNN, just “right behind” if you rank the networks by ratings.

  15. now ED can go from being beat by Anderson to being beat by Anderson

  16. imnotblue Says:

    I hope MSNBC’s fan will be able to keep track.

  17. savefarris Says:

    “Actually, coming up right behind CNN at 8.”

    I think he was just tweeting his travel plans. I wouldn’t think that Western Russia would be a hotbed of news that required on-site reporting but, again, I’m not as overwhelmingly brilliant as KO.

  18. This is a good move. Lawrence’s numbers were great at 10pm. Once he was moved to 8, his ratings plummeted.

    As for the Olbermann effect, I think that’s died off. CURRENT won’t ever be a factor because there’s no identity and still very little carriage. When I upgrade my cable account, I have to pick between getting CURRENT, MavTV, Universal TV and FOX Business or DVR. I’m going with the DVR.

  19. Now, I hope MSNBC shakes up dayside.

    Give Veronica De La Cruz a timeslot, get Andrea Mitchell off dayside and, for the love of god, send Sharpton packing.

  20. “For what it’s worth I agree with the move. Ed Schulz, say what you will (and I’m not a fan), has far more fire and brimstone than Lawrence O’Donnell and that’s a better fit for 8pm. But, the onus is still on CNN to show it can overtake MSNBC. Because it’s obvious Phil Griffin isn’t just going to lie down and watch Ken Jautz speed past him.”

    Yep, bad idea from the start.

  21. missy5537 Says:

    From blue: “I hope MSNBC’s fan will be able to keep track.”

    In the “why didn’t I say that”? category.

  22. imnotblue Says:


  23. Veronica De La Cruz should be the Mika Brezinski of “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”

    MSNBC should expand Jansing & Co to two hours, bump Thomas Roberts to noon, and expand NewsNation to two hours (2-4). Move back Bashir to 4, Ratigan to 5, keep Sharpton since he’s new and doing ok ratings wise, have Hardball live at 7.

    While they are at it, end the Friday doc bloc. LOD can host his show from LA on Friday.

    Expand weekends too. Give Alex Witt more hours, add some more from Richard Lui and Craig Melvin.

  24. they should replace all the talking lefties except Maddow (keep the best) with prison shows. But just girl prisons.

  25. @Josh Kaib: Mika Brzezinski is so irritating sometimes. I wonder if she’s drunk on the air half the time she’s on.

    Veronica’s shown she’s a competent anchor time and time again.

    Chris Jansing should have two hours. Pair Thomas Roberts and VLDC up for two hours. Tamron Hall should also be two hours.

  26. […] was tapped to fill 8pm after Olbermmann severed ties with MSNBC (and vise versa). O’Donnell couldn’t hold his numbers and began to undermine Maddow’s numbers…something Hayes’ show is being accused of […]

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