Ed Schultz Out, Ezra Klein In? I Doubt It…well…the Klein Part Anyways…

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter writes about MSNBC. But everyone is going to be talking about this paragraph buried in the second page near the end…

Several MSNBC employees, who spoke about programming plans on the condition of anonymity, said the most likely candidate for a new show was the Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, a frequent substitute for Ms. Maddow. Mr. Klein may start with a weekend time slot, but these people said the 8 p.m. weekday time slot held by Mr. Schultz was also a possibility.

If it’s being floated, even as a trial balloon, it suggests things are not well in the Ed Schultz/MSNBC relationship. But it also could mean more trouble for MSNBC if the network went through with it.

Ed Schultz is in the Keith Olbermann mold. He’s in the Bill O’Reilly mold. He’s in the Nancy Grace mold. He’s an attack dog, perfectly suited for the fire and brimstone strong POV 8pm ET timeslot that those three all occupied for years. 8pm is where the fireworks take place. CNN’s counterprogramming non-withstanding.

Now consider Ezra Klein. He’s articulate. He’s scholarly. He’s relatively restrained. He’s in the Maddow/Hayes/Perry mold. In other words he’s not 8pm material. MSNBC should know this already and not be entertaining the idea of putting Klein there. They already tried the more restrained route with The Last Word after Olbermann quit. It didn’t work and Lawrence O’Donnell went back to 10pm where his show was better suited. I cannot believe that Phil Griffin would want to attempt to repeat what in hindsight turned out to be a mistake.

Because it seems so far fetched that MSNBC would attempt to go against the 8pm grain with Klein, I think this leak is more of a message from MSNBC to Ed Schultz and the message is, “You are replaceable.” What prompted it is unknown. Is there a contract negotiation going on and Schultz is asking for too much? Or is it pushback, as Mediaite’s Joe Nicosia notes, to Schultz allegedly claiming on his radio show to be the reason for MSNBC’s success? Though I don’t read Schultz’s quote the way NewsBusters is reading it. I read it as Schultz saying that sticking up for the blue collar (union) working man was never a targeted demographic on MSNBC the way it now is on his show. And, he’s basically right about that. Schultz has cornered the market in that demographic far more so than anyone else at the network.

On the other hand, look at Schultz’s numbers for October.

“The Ed Show” at 8:00 p.m. had the program’s best delivery ever among both A25-54 and total viewers and the best performance in the hour since March 2009. “The Ed Show” topped CNN in all categories, with a 125% advantage over CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ among A25-54 (399,000 vs. 177,000) and a 140% lead over CNN in total viewers (1.33 million vs. 554,000). Compared to Oct. 2011, “Ed” is up 127% with A25-54 and 57% with total viewers, more growth than all cable news channels in the hour combined. “The Ed Show” is also up 120% with A18-34 compared to Oct. 2011.

Sounds impressive. Best since 2009. Ah, but what about before 2009? I don’t have the October 2008 numbers but in November of 2008 this is what Countdown did…

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” maintains its ratings dominance at 8 p.m. over CNN, with a huge advantage among both A25-54 (780,000 vs. 472,000) and total viewers (2,107,000 vs. 1,321,000).

That’s almost double what The Ed Show did last month. Now, obviously, the November 2008 numbers were somewhat juiced by the 2008 election. But so should have the October 2012 numbers been. But let’s look at this from a slightly different angle…

Here are Rachel Maddow’s numbers for last month

“The Rachel Maddow Show” at 9:00 p.m. had its best A25-54 and total viewer delivery since Nov. 2008. “Maddow” was #2 in all categories, topping CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” by 209% among A25-54 (538,000 vs. 174,000) and by 172% among total viewers (1.57 million vs. 575,000). Compared to Oct. 2011, “Maddow” is up 151% with A25-54 and 83% with total viewers, more growth in the time period than all cable news channels combined. “Maddow” is also up 149% with the younger demo of A18-34 compared to Oct. 2011.

And here are Maddow’s numbers for November 2008

“The Rachel Maddow Show” continues to be a huge ratings success, out-rating CNN’s “Larry King Live” among both A25-54 (672,000 vs. 565,000) and total viewers (1,826,000 vs. 1,705,000) in November.

Maddow, like Schultz, couldn’t regain the highs of 2008. But Maddow was a lot closer to her 2008 numbers than Schultz was to Olbermann’s numbers in 2008.

It may turn out that MSNBC thinks it can do better numbers at 8pm than it has. But whatever the reason MSNBC is entertaining ideas of moving Schultz’s show, or dropping him entirely, I don’t believe Klein is the right choice for reasons I outlined above.

Update: MSNBC issues a non-denial denial to Mediaite

“We’re very happy with the performance of our primetime lineup, which topped Fox News Channel three nights this week. There are no changes planned.”

Operative word: “Planned”. Things don’t have to be “planned” for Stelter’s story to still be accurate. I still think it’s unlikely though.

16 Responses to “Ed Schultz Out, Ezra Klein In? I Doubt It…well…the Klein Part Anyways…”

  1. Isn’t Stelter the same guy who said, back in 2004, that MSNBC was relaunching as a whole?

  2. I’m betting that it’s more likely Ezra would pick up one of Matthews’ timeslots. There’s no reason to air Hardball twice. In fact, Matthews should be on the way out after that asinine comment he made on Wednesday morning.

  3. “Isn’t Stelter the same guy who said, back in 2004, that MSNBC was relaunching as a whole?”

    I think the word was “hole”.

  4. The problem with The Ed Show – on top of what I specified in the previous thread – is that there’s nowhere to go with it now that the election is over. It’s a one-note activist “rally the troops” exercise whose cause is over. The Democrat got re-elected, and the demographic shift in the country shows that the majority of voters get Ed’s message. What else is there to shout about?

  5. There’s no point to Hannity’s show either, yet it will remain on the air and continues to bring in huge ratings.

  6. Nice point Andy. Also, a Hardball replay getting replaced would be interesting, reducing MSNBC’s replay hours outside late primetime being that one half-tape, half-live hour of Morning Joe. It would allow for a little bit more variety in the afternoon when viewers would otherwise be watching a replay for that matter.

  7. There’s no point to Way Too Early now since it’s just an extension of Morning Joe without Willie. Just re-air First Look or something.

  8. I agree with Spud’s conclusion the Klein is not the right choice to replace Schultz; if he is moved or dropped. I’d much prefer Klein on weekends, replacing one of the Hardball hours or, better still, replacing either Sharpton or Bashir.

    Because The Ed Show goes up against Billo and FNC has been showing a bit of ratings vulnerability lately I just don’t see anyone in the current MSNBC stable of substitute hosts that could give better numbers than Ed does now.

    If he is replaced I think it will be a promotion from within the current stable of hosts.rather than someone new like Klein; maybe Chris Hayes or Alex Wagner.

    There is a name I think might make a good host (but in a weekend slot or replacing Thomas Roberts); and that I’ve been impressed with as a pundit; and that is Joy Ann Reid. I don’t think she is in line for a show but MHP has been a disaster and I think giving her a shot might be a good gamble. After all that’s how Alex Wagner got her shot.

  9. They better be careful with Schultz… or he will BURN THAT PLACE TO THE GROUND!!!

  10. I agree that Ezra is not the right person to replace Ed at the 8pm hour. Besides, he is still too new and needs more development. That being said, I would love the see Ed get the boot. I am a lifelong democrat and sometimes agree with him, but I can’t stand to watch him more than 30 seconds. Andy M. and Chris L. are spot on – Hardball replay is primed for replacement. There is no need to play Hardball twice in that timeframe. That being said, Hardball replay is still kicking the crap out of CNN at the 7pm hour so I can see why they would hesitate to change it. Plus, I am not sure how many more years Chris has in him to do Hardball. There is room for Ezra on the weekends OR promote someone in dayside to take over a Hardball hour and give Ezra something earlier in the day. I always thought Alex would be the perfect successor to Chris Matthews so I would give her a Hardball hour and start building her up to replace Ed. Wags is progressive, smart, and knows Washington politics.
    Besides, maybe more is at work with Ed’s departure – didn’t his wife recently get diagnosed with cancer?

  11. If MSNBC was considering replacing schultz , they already know a lighter voice at 8 doesn’t work so the logical pick would be Sharpton at 8 , and give Klein 6pm ET something like that .

  12. Ummmmmmm….Blue…the correct quote was’ “I’m going to torch this place.”

  13. Dang… so close!

    Either way, there will be fire. And I’ll be outside making s’mores.

  14. I should ban you for life for liking smores…

  15. You don’t like s’mores?! What are you, a Communist?

    Meh. As a kid, I always liked the PopTarts S’mores. As an adult, not so much.

    But it was easier to write than, “And I’ll be outside roasting Hebrew National hot dogs.” That seemed a little wordy.

  16. Talking Pacific Time, but why not move Bashir to 2PM and have Klein on at 1? It would allow the network to have mindless angry babble on from 2 clear until 6PM, leading into MSNBC’s calmer minds.

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