MSNBC Turmoil…

In a must read, The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton confirms the entirely predictable to a chorus of “What took so long?”…

Network President Phil Griffin knows MSNBC needs to turn those numbers around quickly, and multiple insiders tell TheWrap Griffin is in the process of deciding what potential changes to make, including tinkering with primetime.

One well-placed insider told TheWrap that the ratings-challenged “All In” with Chris Hayes — airing in the cable news sweet spot of 8 p.m. ET — might get uprooted for a different timeslot. It’s not clear who will replace Hayes in the event that he gets yanked from 8 p.m., but since Keith Olbermann’s 2011 exit, MSNBC has filled the all-important timeslot with internal talent rather than seeking hosts from the outside.


“Ronan [Farrow] and Joy [Reid] — something has to change there,” another insider told TheWrap, adding that many within MSNBC believe one of the two — Farrow at 1 p.m. Reid at 2 p.m. — will see their shows canceled soon. The duo, who debuted on Feb. 24, 2014, have been major contributors to MSNBC’s daytime woes.

And then there’s this tidbit which is the biggest talking point in the whole story…

MSNBC’s other programming problem appears to be Griffin himself, whom multiple insiders told TheWrap is too attached to the hosts he’s selected and the shows they’ve developed, including Farrow, Reid, Hayes and Alex Wagner, who hosts “Now” at 4 p.m. ET.


“It’s stubbornness,” another insider told TheWrap about Griffin’s reluctance to axe struggling shows hosted by his handpicked talent. “There are certain shows and talent that are very much his. They were his ideas, so I think that’s where you see the least flexibility.”

Griffin, like Roger Ailes, prizes loyalty. Anonymous quotes stabbing Griffin the in the back are not exactly in that vein.

The thing is the anonymous source is right. Nothing contained in this story is news to anyone following MSNBC. Hayes at 8 was a problem from the beginning. Farrow was a problem from the beginning. The same goes for Reid and especially Wagner. We all saw it. It has been obvious for nearly a year that changes needed to be made. And Phil Griffin has doggedly dragged his feet, fiddling away while Rome burned.


39 Responses to “MSNBC Turmoil…”

  1. MSNBC’s pre-empted Reid and Farrow’s shows multiple times this year in favor of breaking news coverage.

    I’ve noticed a big change just in the past few weeks at MSNBC. They’ve been much more focused on news, even in primetime where they seem to be the only network willing to cover breaking news.

  2. MSNBC’s first problem is it’s talent search/host selection process. All of the people mentioned in the post were predictable disasters. MSNBC chooses talent by checking off demographic boxes as opposed to the rational criteria of “will this person not suck on air”.

    MSNBC wanted to attract young viewers so they give Chris Hayes and Ronan Farrow shows. They were criticized for not having any black hosts so they give Al freaking Sharpton a show. These criticisms aren’t 20/20 hindsight. They were laughable decisions at the time.

  3. Where to start? OK MSNBC is going though a bad patch at the moment; just as they and CNN have done in the past. I expect as we get closer to the primaries things will get better but who knows. It would be good to be able to see individual Dayside ratings for all the shows; instead of snippets from certain shows pulled out to bolster the writers argument.

    I’m a fan of the network but I watch less now than before. Some has to do with the changes discussed in the story but some is just I get more info on line now.

    I liked Hayes weekend show and didn’t think he would travel well to PT. He’s a nerd with a shrill voice and that apparently that isn’t what viewers want in PT. A move back to weekends would be a good idea for him but only if it’s not to replace ‘UP’ – my favorite show on the network.

    Farrow has gotten better as a host in recent weeks but he just doesn’t belong on Dayside. He did well in Paris and maybe he needs to do long form docs and more reporting.

    I like Maddow’s show a lot and don’t think it needs changing but that’s just my opinion. Same for LOD. Reid, Wagner, Mitchell, Hall, Matthews and Witt. They’re OK but nothing special.

    MJ has declined in recent months and now is mostly an unwatchable caricature of it’s previous incarnation. MSNBC really misses Todd and Jansing and their replacement JD-B is just doing Telemundo in English on MSNBC. I’d really like to see his ratings compared to the old shows.

    Sharpton, Schultz and MHP are the shows I’d dump but I’m not expecting that to happen anytime soon. They seem to get a free ride in this story; mostly because the author seems to have an agenda of attacking the newer hosts.

    I watch a good deal of now and am seeing some of the new ‘Shift’ programing. Russert’s ‘The Briefing’ and Beth Fouley’s ‘Reporters Notebook’ are can’t miss shows for me now. I haven’t seen enough of the other shows to form an opinion yet.

    In short Griffiths has had some successes and some misses but if the ratings don’t improve soon he may be the one looking for a new job.

  4. Excellent post/analysis, Fritz.

    What is that doing here? .

  5. “What is that doing here? .”

    ^^LOL! Took me a minute to get the joke, but thanks.

  6. “What is that doing here?”


  7. I’d go with political coverage aimed at a female demographic.

  8. Fritz is right, especially about Morning Joe. Used to watch that show every day. Now it’s unwatchable.

    That said, MSNBC’s a much better network as a whole than it was six hours ago.

  9. Here’s my view which echos for year’s spud’s, is that Griffin’s opinion in primetime to out fox fox back fired because now the brand is too damaged to go back to doing news.

    I used to watch msnbc way back when they were in 3rd place because of nbc news and dayside/imus. As years gone on the network improved in primetime and Olberman and matthews voice took off. Then morning joe happened and there was a period of smart talk, nbc news and then opinion in primetime. It was a nice balance and the network took of as being not just news but the feeling of think tank. Then they rebranded with the artsy graphics and all was good.

    But then they took the car and drove it off the cliff for numbers, and alienated the audience. Nobody really asked for the programing or direction they have now. Every show is a copy of Rachael Maddow so now there’s no need to tune in at 9PM. Matthews was to the best of his ablity more centered when MSNBC was news, and now he went off to lib land. It used to be a good politics show. Morning Joe jumped it’s own shark and died because they use the same people and only cover politics. If Joe and Mika were asked to join CBS they should’ve, as CBS this morning took their audience and made morning joe 2.0. The other problem is that there’s more to life than politics and when everyone hates politics and that’s all you offer no one wants you.

    Now because they went so far left, there’s no way they can bring the brand centered. The best thing they can do is cancel: ronan, joy, the cycle, wagner, sharpton and hayes. Bring back dayside news with Lui, witt, and hire new journalists. Name it nbc news live and make sure people know it’s not opinion. Make primetime it’s own thing like adult swim. Move matthews to 8PM. Conservatives are way more loyal than libs and 24 hr vehicles don’t work for them.

  10. Won’t happen. Not as long as Griffin is in charge. Which may not be too much longer if things stay like this…

  11. I do miss the old MSNBC , I too used to watch their daytime news (when I had a chance ) over CNN/FNC. I do think Griffin gets too attached the people hosting on the channel ; Ronan would have been canned by now if this was CNN.
    Also the doing only politics ( not even just left) was a bad idea because people would get sick of it.
    I would say keep Ronan ,but not a 1pm ET host have him do some reporting for a few many years then maybe one day he will move up.

  12. As a former MSNBC fan, I’ve waited a long time for an article like this. First, I will say that there was a day where I was addicted to MSNBC. I have watched the network since the days of “Connected: Coast to Coast” (anyone remember that short-lived gem?).

    Like any fan, I remember the distinctive time in 2006 when MSNBC found its voice. Keith Olbermann sprang out of years of obscurity and it was exhilarating. Each day I would get so excited to see the newest overnight ratings. They got better and better and better. By 2011, even after Keith left, I remember being in awe of how much MSNBC had improved in viewership. They were doubling CNN on most nights, and even dayside had surged to second place.

    It’s awful how much times have changed since then. I read on that Ronan Farrow received only 11,000 viewers in the demo the other day. 11,000?!!!!!! Back in 2012, any show that dropped below 100,000 would be considered low rated.

    The sad thing is I’m one of the people who’s tuned out MSNBC this past year. It’s just so stale and predictable. The entire lineup… Maddow included.

    Back in the day, there was a sense of scrappiness and unpredictability to MSNBC. Morning Joe was like an inside conversation to beltway politics, Olbermann was bombastic and unpredictable, Maddow was the calming force FOLLOWING Olbermann’s diatribes, and Lawrence was a mix of Olbermann and Maddow: thoughtful and poetic… yet bombastic at times.

    Nowadays, there is not one show that stands out from another. You have erudite, intellectual Hayes at 8, erudite, intellectual Maddow at 9, and erudite, intellectual Lawrence at 10. There is no nuance. No unpredictability. Dayside is the same. Ronan is liberal and calm, Joy Reid is liberal and calm, Alex Wagner is liberal and calm. Oddly enough, only the hours of Shultz, Sharpton, and Matthews are a little more intense. And even then… the stories, the content, the analysis is the exact same as the rest of the lineup.

    Back in the day, nobody would argue that Olbermann’s show was similar to Maddow’s. Sure, they were both liberals, but Maddow would never make a special comment where she would tell President Bush to “shut the hell up!”

    It’s that kind of nuance that’s missing. These days, MSNBC is not just the place for politics… but the place where the same politics are discussed by virtually the same host, hour after hour.

    I hope MSNBC changes soon. I’m a liberal and I cannot stand to watch it anymore.

  13. You make some good points Ryan. There is a sameness to a lot of the shows on MSNBC; particularly on Dayside.

    I think Maddow does a good job of highlighting undercovered stories like the waste of money by the military in Afghanistan; but Dayside seems to just do the same stories, in the same way, with a different host.

    The other thing that contributes to the sameness is the use of the same guests and pundits for most stories. I realize that pundits and contributors are under contract but few shows go beyond their favorites.

    I don’t think we are likely to go back to the days of KO and telling the POTUS to shut up, mostly because the administration is Democratic and not Republican. When Obama became President MSNBC and FNC changed roles almost overnight. MSNBC went from attacking the POTUS to defending him and FNC did exactly the opposite. The role change has been a problem since Obama’s popularity has declined and he has made many decisions that have upset liberals

    You mention that you don’t watch as much MSNBC as before but don’t say if you watch another network or just don’t watch much cable news at all anymore? My guess is, just like me, you get your news and opinion more on line these days, because you can get more variety there.

  14. imnotblue Says:

    I loved “Coast To Coast.” That was a really entertaining show.

  15. I enjoy NewsNation, Andrea Mitchell Reports and The Cycle. But those shows are sandwiched in between shows that I refuse to watch.

    Morning Joe and The Rundown are completely unwatchable. Ronan’s gotten better but his show is still boring. Same with Joy Ann Reid. Alex has gotten better but her show is still all politics most of the time. Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton are too loud for me.

    Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow are the same exact show and I’ve been saying that for two years. And ever since they launched All In, they’ve put a leash on Lawrence or something.

    MSNBC should have kept Ed on at 8pm. The ratings were stabilized and he brought lead-in for Rachel and Lawrence. To me, MSNBC began falling apart when the moved Ed to 5pm and put Chris on at 8pm.

    Everyone knew Fox News’ ratings would go up when they put Megyn on at 9pm. At the same time that FNC did that, MSNBC took Rachel’s punch away by having Chris Hayes do the exact same show as Rachel at 8pm.

    I used to watch MSNBC all the time going back to the war in Afghanistan. When Al Jazeera America launched, I quit watching MSNBC except for a few shows. Now that I live in HD-land, I typically watch CNN.

    That said, MSNBC has improved it’s news content in the past month. Just in the past month, you can tell there’s been a change in strategy at MSNBC.

  16. Tuesday night, MSNBC was covering legitimately breaking news while Fox News was mostly at tape at 8pm, 10pm and 11pm with their standard “Everything wrong in the world is Obama’s fault” programming. Fox News still got more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combinbed.

    Let that sink in for a minute.

  17. I don’t think we are likely to go back to the days of KO and telling the POTUS to shut up, mostly because the administration is Democratic and not Republican. When Obama became President MSNBC and FNC changed roles almost overnight. MSNBC went from attacking the POTUS to defending him and FNC did exactly the opposite. The role change has been a problem since Obama’s popularity has declined and he has made many decisions that have upset liberals

    I don’t think it matters who’s in office. Obama’s election campaign helped MSNBC for a couple months but that’s it. When Bush was in office and was unpopular and things in this country were getting really bad, Fox News was still beating CNN and MSNBC combined.

    It’s something I tell some of my friends all the time. Conservatives outnumber Liberals 2:1 in this country and Conservatives are much more partisan than Liberals. MSNBC’s strategy was never going to work in the long run.

  18. The only MSNBC show I can tolerate is Andrea Mitchel. I used to watch CT before he moved to MTP. And, I used to watch Matthews daily until he became a race bomb launching kook.

  19. “Conservatives are much more partisan than Liberals”

    Uhm, no idea where that idea comes from. That’s silly.

  20. Uhm, no idea where that idea comes from. That’s silly.

    If there’s nothing going on in politics (see: the month of August), we can go days and weeks without hearing much from the left. At the same time, we’ll hear the right blaming the left for gas prices, the weather or anything.

    Robin Williams’ death became a political issue, because right-wing pundits made remarks about him being unhappy because he was a Liberal.

    Or we can look at the comments sections on this blog. A blog about cable news, and almost every single “Free For All” is a right wing snarkfest about the left and how terrible they are. In threads with 30+ comments, I can count on one hand how many are actually about cable news. Well, unless Fox “News” Channel makes things up and gets called out, then it’s of utmost importance to mount a non-stop defense of that network.

  21. Andy, those are some strong blinders you have on. We don’t hear from the left? Everything is political. They are currently trying to make the vaccine story partisan. They immediately turned Ferguson into a partisan story by ignoring facts to condemn a police officer.

    Blaming Obama for everything? Did you miss the Bush years? Did you miss Obama blaming Bush for everything during goad entire first term?

    Do you remember the paul wellstone funeral? Do you read NYT obituaries of popular conservatives?

    Comments section: have you noticed the tone here now that every bad thing in the world isn’t blamed on FNC?

    IF BOR or Megyn Kelly lied about being hit with an RPG how many comments and what would the tone of those be compared to the current ones about BW? Though, I do wish Ice would come back.

  22. And, IMO, the reason for FNC’s rating success is pretty simple to figure out. They’re the only news network that leans right. Every other one leans left – just to differing degrees. If there were 5 other major media outlets that also leaned right, FNC wouldn’t have the ratings they do.

  23. Ferguson: The facts, at the time, were not favorable to Darren Wilson. And people were still ticked off about the thug that killed Trayvon Martin getting away with it while Fox News celebrated and held him up as a hero.

    Blaming Bush? Reagan blamed Carter for his problems for years and years. Republicans were blaming Clinton, in 2007, when the economy started going south. And they spent years blaming Clinton and the Democrats for 9/11 and Iraq. So, no, you don’t get to talk about poor George.

    Obituaries of popular Conservatives: I don’t read The New York Times but I remember when Reagan died and every network, broadcast and cable, spent a week talking about him and “the great communicator” and how he was the greatest President in American history. So, try again.

    The ICN comments section has been a right wing snarkfest for years now … complete with a non-stop need to defend Fox News, even when they’re in the wrong.

    When Fox News lied about “no-go zones”, the comments section on here was all about how poor little Fox News was being persecuted and CNN said the same thing and CNN’s so evil and poor Fox News is being persecuted. I don’t see people claiming Brian Williams is being persecuted by bringing up what Geraldo Rivera reported when he was in Tora Bora.

    Don’t even get me started about how people react when Megyn Kelly gets called out.

  24. And, IMO, the reason for FNC’s rating success is pretty simple to figure out. They’re the only news network that leans right. Every other one leans left – just to differing degrees. If there were 5 other major media outlets that also leaned right, FNC wouldn’t have the ratings they do.

    That’s right-wing propaganda right there.

  25. Right-wing propaganda would be denying FNC leans right while lamenting the liberal bias among the other outlets. Just like left-wing propaganda would be lamenting FNC’s right leanings while denying the liberal bias of the other outlets.

    You may not believe the media is biased to the left but you’d be in the minority. Polls show independents and Republicans believe the media is too liberal. The only group who doesn’t believe so is…liberals.

    And polls also show the overwhelming majority of journalists and journalism professors are Democrats.

  26. The facts have a liberal bias, not the reporters.

  27. “Liberal media”; where the Bush Administration got a free pass during the buildup to the Iraq war and where the Bush Administration got a free pass during the war and where Bush was praised, without challenge, after the initial invasion of Iraq and where Bush was being considered one of the greatest presidents in history.

    The reason Keith Olbermann was so popular was because he was the one voice in the national media who was openly critical of President Bush.

    Everyone in the media’s criticized President Obama (including MSNBC). But there is an entire channel that’s been devoted, since before his election, to criticizing President Obama around the clock … something that didn’t exist from the “liberal media” when Bush was in office.

    But, sure, “liberal media”.

  28. As for MSNBC, I think they were ahead of their time when they launched. They had a strong internet presence. In the early 2000s, they were online (audio and video) streaming MSNBC News. Their dayside news, they were always reaching out for interaction from viewers. It didn’t work then but it would work now.

    One of their weak points, when they did do news, was weekends. It’s still a problem. Saturdays and Sundays, time to go to prison and stay there.

  29. Wow, ok. That’s some out there stuff. Not much to say to that. LOL


  30. savefarris Says:

    “we can go days and weeks without hearing much from the left”

    Forgot the whole Cindy Sheehan thing, did ya?

  31. imnotblue Says:

    Or the whole “stolen election thing.”

    Sorry, “things,” since it happened twice.

  32. Not sure how old Andy is but it might be possible that all he knows about the Bush years, he heard from his college professors.

    I’m trying to be nice but that stuff above was just nowhere near reality.

  33. “The facts have a liberal bias, not the reporters”.

    Funny, funny statement there Andy.

    LS: Andy is old enough to vote but found the instructions on registering hard to follow. ( I have a long memory!)

  34. It might also be possible that Andy remembers the media acting as Bush’s cheerleaders all the way into Baghdad and how people who criticized the war (or were right about it) were fired. And how the media blacklisted the Dixie Chicks for being right.

    This is what’s called false equivalence. Bush was criticized a lot in the media, especially after Hurricane Katrina (which is when most of the country turned on him), over legitimate issues. Bush’s own party turned on him during the Iraq war and candidates for election spent years running away from him and his record.

    One channel, since day one, has been critical of Obama. They had Fox News on at a bar one night, this was early 2009, February or March. It was non-stop coverage of Obama’s debt, Obama’s bailout, Obama’s war followed by Fox News promoting TEA Party rallies and how those people at those rallies were upset over Obama’s tax increases and Obama’s bailouts.

    But, sure, the media was too critical of Bush.

  35. imnotblue Says:

    The media didn’t “blacklist the Dixie Chicks for being right.”

    That’s at best re-writing history… at worst a lie.

    The Dixie Chicks got into to trouble for being rude to the President overseas. But even then, nobody “blacklisted,” them except for country music fans! It was only after the fans said, “Unacceptable,” that radio stations stop playing their music. I know, shocking… offend your fans and the fans stop listening… what a concept!

    Apparently in some circles, people think celebrities can say whatever they want, and fans have no right to react or respond. Somewhere Mel Gibson agrees, but those trying to spin the Dixie Chicks fall from grace don’t see the hypocrisy or irony.

  36. There’s a lot of re-writing of history from those too young to remember actual events. See Andrew Kirell’s twitter feed. It’s full of the nonsense listed above.

    Yes, country music fans have a right to listen or not listen to whomever they want. They have a right to be upset at Natalie Maines for taking cheap shots at the POTUS…overseas…in a time of war…when most Dixie Chicks fans were also big GWB fans.

    But, it’s easier to concoct some sort of “media blacklist” nonsense. Which is just about as factually accurate as saying Keith Olbermann was the only person in the media going after Bush. That’s, as we say, Brian Williams level of re-writing history.

  37. And, it’s especially stupid as we’re currently living the Brian Williams saga. Which should remind us of the Dan Rather saga. You know, where his team used fabricated documents in the run up to a Presidential election, to try and destroy a sitting POTUS. A sitting POTUS who, according to Andy, was loved by everyone in the media save that objective savior, Keith Olbermann.

    Mayonnaise. I shouldn’t have even responded as the allegations were that absurd. I blame you, INB.

  38. Checked the ratings from the last few weeks. There’s no way around it for Phil Griffin, MSNBC won’t get their ratings back up in primetime until All In is cancelled. He won’t do it.

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