The MSNBC Conundrum

In a must reaad, the AP’s David Bauder (I presume it’s Bauder…as usual this went out uncredited) writes about MSNBC and its challenges. I want to quote the whole damn thing but that would be wrong. Instead I’ll highlight the part everyone will be talking about most…Keith Olbermann’s opinion on the situation…

To many fans, MSNBC’s weakness isn’t that it’s liberal. It’s that the network is boring.

“The solution is not that ‘we need more news’ or that ‘we need to alter the political viewpoint,’ but what does the content of the shows look like,” said Keith Olbermann, former MSNBC prime-time host. “Do not be afraid to make good television. And in Rachel, Phil Griffin, and Andy Lack, they’ve got three people in place who’ve already done that there.”

Olbermann single-handedly lurched MSNBC to the left during President George W. Bush’s second term when his angry commentary attracted a loyal audience. He had the passion, Maddow the quietly analytical mind and together they formed a potent one-two punch.

After Olbermann left, MSNBC set about modeling its lineup after Maddow, its Rhodes scholar and highest-rated personality.

Liberal in outlook, MSNBC’s programming approach is often conservative. Watching MSNBC can feel like a hidden camera picking up a discussion in the faculty lounge. Fox viewers often feel like they’ve stumbled upon a street brawl.

29 Responses to “The MSNBC Conundrum”

  1. Yet another article purporting to decipher what’s wrong at MSNBC, without offering any real answers to the perceived problem – its current low ratings.

    What to do?

    Do they stop doing opinion news and go back to straight news. Do they just get more entertaining hosts to deliver their opinion news. Do they do both change to straight news and get more entertaining hosts to deliver it. Do they just wait until the upcoming election brings back higher ratings.

    CNN/HLN are in the middle of a major format change. Do they follow their example and just get out of news (opinion or otherwise) altogether. Or do they just copy the big ratings winner in cable news, FNC, and hire a bunch of conservative hosts and switch to right wing opinion.

    Everyone has an opinion as to what’s wrong at MSNBC but no one has a solution for fixing the problem; that makes sense in the context of hosts having big contracts, the views of the sponsors, what does Comcast want, what does Lack want and will viewers still want to watch if big changes are made.

    I have no answers and, as I watch less cable news every year, whatever happens won’t make all that much difference in my life anymore.

  2. On the opinion side, they need to make better hiring decisions. They don’t have anybody that someone who isn’t a hard lefty would enjoy watching. Liberals hate FNC but 3/4 of their primetime hosts aren’t scared to challenge Republicans. MSNBC doesn’t have that. They are basically a liberal propaganda channel.

    Another problem MSNBC faces is competition. The left can find left leaning news/analysis at all the other networks, save FNC, and via the vast majority of newspapers, internet sites, etc.

    I think they made the same mistakes Air America made. They went out and found devoted liberals to host shows but ignored the entertainment factor. You can’t go out and scream that the vast majority of Americans are women hating racists just because they don’t agree with you. No one, to me, at MSNBC, is entertaining…except maybe for Chris Matthews. But, he too has devolved into an often times angry and hate filled host. I used to watch his show every day. But, to me, it became nearly unwatchable about 6 or 7 years ago.

  3. “they need to make better hiring decisions. They don’t have anybody that someone who isn’t a hard lefty would enjoy watching.”

    ^^Well they are a liberal POV network at the moment so that isn’t surprising. You can say the same about FNC. It goes with the territory. If MSNBC decides to get out of liberal opinion POV then they will hire new hosts, but it’s unlikely your going to like anyone on the network until then.

    “Liberals hate FNC but 3/4 of their primetime hosts aren’t scared to challenge Republicans.”

    ^^A popular meme with FNC fanboys. but FNC mostly challenge Republicans who don’t tow the agenda that FNC is promoting – see the recent spat on DC about FNC not challenging the Republican Party immigration policy. MSNBC is about the same on the issue. They challenge more moderate/conservative Democratic positions, particularly on foreign policy, but not liberal favorites like Elizabeth Warren.

    “They are basically a liberal propaganda channel.”

    ^^Yawn. Just like FNC is a conservative propaganda channel.

    “Another problem MSNBC faces is competition. The left can find left leaning news/analysis at all the other networks, save FNC, and via the vast majority of newspapers, internet sites, etc.”

    ^^On this I agree totally. Conservatives like their news filtered through a conservative filter. Liberals apparently don’t want their news coming through a liberal filter – at least on TV.

    “No one, to me, at MSNBC, is entertaining…”

    ^^That is not surprising since you don’t agree with almost anything on the network says. I feel exactly the same way about FNC hosts (with a couple of exceptions). Having Billo, Kelly, or Hannity scream that liberals are baby killing spawn of the devil (my version of: “You can’t go out and scream that the vast majority of Americans are women hating racists) just doesn’t make me want to tune in the network.

    “But, to me, it became nearly unwatchable about 6 or 7 years ago.”

    ^^Coincidently about the same time the network turned to a leftist POV.

  4. It’s the complete lack of awareness you demonstrate above, fritz, that the powers that be at MSNBC suffer from.

  5. “It’s the complete lack of awareness you demonstrate above, fritz, that the powers that be at MSNBC suffer from.”

    ^^Personal attacks aren’t of interest to me. Bye.

  6. If the truth hurts.

  7. savefarris Says:

    The biggest problem is the simplest: From Al to Lawrence, it’s all the same show.

    Back in MSNBC’s heyday, you had different hosts putting different spins on the day’s news:
    * Matthews was the insider’s insider, specializing in how the sausage was made.
    *Olbermann/Schultz brought the outraged, spit-flecked bombast.
    * Maddow brought it back to the intellectual side.
    * Lawrence wrapped it up with a tamer version of Olbermann’s tenacity mixed with a healthy dose of smarminess.

    But now, outside of Sharpton’s focus on all things race, every single MSNBC show is a Jon Stewart clone, full of snide jabs and a “Can you believe our opponents are this dumb?” level of smug superiority. That can get boring after 5 hours, much less 6 years.

    FNC succeeds because the hosts put on different shows. Bair is the Russert, Greta is a less insanse Nancy Grace, Billo is Billo, Megyn goes for Barbara Walters 2.0, and Hannity is the ultimate cheerleader.

    Different hosts, different shows. All approaching the same news from slightly different angles. Just different enough to keep viewers interested.

  8. “Personal attacks aren’t of interest to me. Bye.”

    No idea how that’s a personal attack but ok.

  9. “Watching MSNBC can feel like a hidden camera picking up a discussion in the faculty lounge.” Ouch. That’s a low blow to faculty lounges. At least there you might eavesdrop on conversations about different subjects other than the same political regurgitation every hour of every day.

  10. Faculty lounge: different subjects: but all with the same bent. Not gonna hear much conservative bent in a faculty lounge.

    At Marquette University a a Professor has been banned from campus because he made a blog post with a conservative bent and a graduate student that was involved in the situation he was explaining complained that “she felt unsafe on campus” because of his blog post.

    A freaking crazy world we live in!

  11. ^Faculty lounge: different subjects: but all with the same bent. Not gonna hear much conservative bent in a faculty lounge.

    ^At Marquette University a a Professor has been banned from campus because he made a blog post with a conservative bent and a graduate student that was involved in the situation he was explaining complained that “she felt unsafe on campus” because of his blog post.

    Outrageous! /s

    Anyway I don’t think they meant MSNBC should adopt a conservative bent. They were talking about the snooze factor.

    Though the way things are going, perhaps they should take a conservative bent. The liberal slant shouldn’t stop them from criticizing the administration but it does so there isn’t much else for them to talk about. At least on Fox they don’t let small things like nuance and context get in the way of their quest for ideological purity desk-pounding. They’re so good at it, even liberals are watching indirectly through other outlets.

    MSNBC hasn’t maintained a loyal audience. They toe government the line so much, firebrand liberals aren’t emotionally invested in it. They also didn’t make the effort to become a go-to channel for breaking news. The MSNBC formula worked well when the Democrats were in the opposition. Viewership will go up as the 2016 elections approaches, but if the GOP doesn’t win it’s going to be even harder to retain those viewers.

  12. savefarris Says:

    Viewership will go up as the 2016 elections approaches

    It’ll go up some, but not enough to make a difference. It helped that MSNBC’s target audience shared many of the same characteristics of Obama’s core voting blocks (The Faculty Lounge, The G** Mafia, Sharptonville, The Urban Young)

    HRC doesn’t match up as well. Her base is more woman-centric and less youth-oriented. It’s one of the reasons MSNBC broke against her in the 2008 primary. (Don’t forget when David Shuster “pimped out” her daughter.)

  13. The mistake that liberals and the powers that be at MSNBC make is in believing they are modeling themselves after Fox. Starting at 6ET, this is the lineup:

    Al Sharpton vs. Bret Baier
    Chris Matthews vs. Greta
    Chris Hayes vs. O’Reilly
    Maddow vs. Megyn
    Lawrence vs. Hannity

    To view those shows as the same side of a different coin is absurd. Hannity is the only committed water carrier on the FNC side; not so with the MSNBC side. FNC and MSNBC are nothing alike. FNC is much more like CNN. CNN is a news network with a leftward slant. FNC is a news network with a rightward slant.

    Also, fritz seems to think I (and others) wouldn’t watch a lefty host as long as they were entertaining…well, I watch CNN almost all day. I used to watch Matthews every single night, even DVRing it. And, I used to watch Maddow more often than not.

  14. Personally, I think the “faculty lounge” comment both nailed it and is off base at the same time. Panel discussions have gotten tired and boring. Trying to emulate Fox News in any way won’t work. FNC is #1 and always will be because Conservatives want to watch programs that presents a different set of facts that reinforces their opinions. They could have Ben Stein anchor a newscast and it would get millions of viewers.

    For starters, that network needs variety. Variety in hosts, variety in content, variety in everything. The most interesting show is The Cycle which has actually become very good and I don’t say that just because of Abby Huntsman either (though that is one great reason to watch). That show is young, vibrant, refreshing and offers discussion on a variety of topics that you just don’t get anywhere else.

    And it’s painfully obvious to everyone except Griffin that Chris Hayes needs to go. He has no charisma whatsoever, he’s extremely boring and it makes what could actually be a decent show, well, unwatchable.

    Melissa Harris-Perry, find her show pretty bad to but I’m also not the audience MSNBC is aiming for with that show. I like Melissa but that show is just way too much on a “we must continue fighting for Civil Rights” crusade for me… which is unfortunate because, if they toned that part down A LOT, I would really enjoy the program.

    The one at MSNBC I would really try out in primetime is Alex Wagner. I mean, I know she’s had ratings struggles in daytime but, it can’t get much worse than Chris Hayes. She’s cute, funny and likable enough that the network could build something completely unconventional around her in primetime if they tried.

    I would also give Abby Huntsman her own show. She’s probably the most complete news anchor MSNBC has, besides Tamron Hall. She’s proven she’s one of the only people at MSNBC who can handle breaking news, she knows politics and she’s up to speed on technology, sports and pop culture.

    And, for the love of all things good in this world, someone please remove whatever leash Phil Griffin has around Lawrence O’Donnell’s neck. I KNOW he’ll challenge Liberals on the air and do so from a strategic and/or moderate position because he’s done it before.

  15. The mistake that liberals and the powers that be at MSNBC make is in believing they are modeling themselves after Fox. Starting at 6ET, this is the lineup:

    Al Sharpton vs. Bret Baier
    Chris Matthews vs. Greta
    Chris Hayes vs. O’Reilly
    Maddow vs. Megyn
    Lawrence vs. Hannity

    To view those shows as the same side of a different coin is absurd. Hannity is the only committed water carrier on the FNC side; not so with the MSNBC side. FNC and MSNBC are nothing alike. FNC is much more like CNN. CNN is a news network with a leftward slant. FNC is a news network with a rightward slant.

    When saying FNC is a news network with a rightward slant, are you really suggesting Greta Van Sustren, Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity are doing news shows the same way Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett are doing news shows on CNN? That’s totally laughable dude.

    It’s funny you bring up Bret Baier when you, at the same time, criticize Thomas Roberts. Much like Thomas Roberts is a left-leaning news anchor, Bret Baier is a right-leaning news anchor.

    Megyn Kelly, sure, once every few months, she grills a Republican because they say something so completely absurd that it would be irresponsible not to do so, but nothing outside of that is news on her show. I know Spud hates comments about an anchor’s looks on here, but let’s be honest, if Megyn Kelly wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, she wouldn’t have such a large audience. Her show is a conservative-political version of Nancy Grace with a much better looking lead role. And Maddow used to be allowed to challenge the left the same way Megyn occasionally challenges the right.

    As for the Hannity/O’Donnell comparison, any valid argument you might have made about how FNC is different than MSNBC went out the window right there. Hannity is the biggest shill on television and, not only that, he’s probably the stupidest person on television.

    CNN might be left-of-center as you claim….. though I don’t see it, especially since Erin Burnett is the second most conservative person on television behind Sean Hannity… but to claim CNN and FNC are similar is irresponsible. In fact, it’s illiterate. FNC only has a couple of actual news shows and, on all but one of those, the newscast oozes with hatred for liberals. Most of FNC’s programming is pretty blatant and in your face about how liberals are all evil, horrible people hellbent on destroying America and TEA Party conservatives are American superheroes here to save us.

  16. Wait, you like Abby Huntsman, Andy? Gee, who knew? Don’t tell me you’re a Carrie Underwood fan, too… 🙂

    And, I agree with your LOD comment. I think he is one who would challenge the left from time to time. I think he could actually be an O’Reilly clone, but with a left perspective, if he was willing (or, if the network would allow him) to be a little more centrist.

    Bottom line, there just isn’t enough debate at MSNBC. There’s a reason, I (and others) don’t watch Hannity. I like him fine, but the show is boring to me. His ratings lag behind BOR & Megyn for a reason.

  17. Thomas Roberts – I’ve said I think he’s talented; but, it’s a problem that he’s now portrayed as a straight news guy when his entire career at MSNBC has been as a partisan. But, I think he has the talent to get decent ratings.

    Megyn Kelly – her looks have nothing (or little) to do with her ratings. You think only guys watch Megyn? My wife loves her and last I checked, she’s not g@y. She’s popular because she’s talented. She has a great persona. She’s smart. But, not in a professorial sort of way. She’s tough. She’s a former lawyer and I’d hate to be the one arguing against her. And, not because of the way she looks. To compare her to Nancy Grace is grossly inaccurate. And, silly.

    Erin Burnett – my take on her is that she’s a moderate. I believe she’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal. I would bet she’s voted for as many Dems as she has R’s; and, I would imagine, she drank the Obama kool-aid in both elections.

    CNN vs. FNC: I’ve never suggested, nor would I, that Hannity does a news show. And, yes, Cooper & Lemon are just as biased to the left side as BOR & Megyn are to the right side. Burnett & Greta are both fairly moderate. BOR is honest about calling his show a “news analysis” show. He’s admitting that he’s giving his opinion. Just because Cooper & Lemon (both of whom I like) don’t admit they’re giving an opinion doesn’t make it so.

    Every host on CNN outside of Burnett and Tapper are left leaning. Tapper is the best in the business; I wish FNC could steal him away. Tapper and Shep are about the only 2 media personalities whom I wouldn’t bet a dime on pretending to know how they vote from election to election.

    I just watched Berman & Bolduan and now Banfield. Not one single guest defending Pence. From Hoover to Lougainus to the legal analysts to Gloria Borger (no surprise there); all of them parroted the lefty talking points. They are a left-wing news network. That doesn’t mean, I hate them the way the Fox haters hate Fox.

  18. Megyn Kelly – her looks have nothing (or little) to do with her ratings. You think only guys watch Megyn? My wife loves her and last I checked, she’s not g@y. She’s popular because she’s talented. She has a great persona. She’s smart. But, not in a professorial sort of way. She’s tough. She’s a former lawyer and I’d hate to be the one arguing against her. And, not because of the way she looks. To compare her to Nancy Grace is grossly inaccurate. And, silly.

    Her looks are a large part of it. If she looked like Barbara Mikulski, nobody would watch. Conservative women like Megyn because Megyn’s a smart, pretty, Conservative woman who makes Conservative arguments against Liberals. If Megyn was everything she is, but was a Liberal instead of a Conservative, Conservative women would LOATHE her.

    I compare her to Nancy Grace because of her show’s format. When Megyn’s “outraged” about an issue, she goes through the same phases Nancy Grace does. She starts off bombastic and angry, then moves on to grief and sadness, then back to anger. She plays on emotions the same way Nancy Grace does. It’s honestly, part of what makes her so good.

    If I didn’t have an opinion about, I don’t know, what kind of beer I like, Megyn could, in a matter of 10 minutes, absolutely convince me that Bud Light is the best thing ever if she wanted to.

    And, yes, being attractive helps considerably.

    Erin Burnett – my take on her is that she’s a moderate. I believe she’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal. I would bet she’s voted for as many Dems as she has R’s; and, I would imagine, she drank the Obama kool-aid in both elections.

    I think Erin Burnett is pretty much right in line with most of America, liberal on social issues but very conservative on most political issues. And, like Megyn, one of the things that appeals to Erin Burnett’s viewers is that she is attractive and charasmatic.

    Thomas Roberts – I’ve said I think he’s talented; but, it’s a problem that he’s now portrayed as a straight news guy when his entire career at MSNBC has been as a partisan. But, I think he has the talent to get decent ratings.

    Thomas Roberts has never been partisan. Does he lean left on certain issues (LGBT equality), sure. Is he partisan, no way. He was anchoring the news on MSNBC, then anchored Way Too Early, a news show. Now, he’s anchoring the news again. Thomas Roberts was caught up in the toxic environment that is MSNBC in the sense that, because he anchors an MSNBC program, he’s automatically a hyper-partisan liberal … a point Spud’s made for years about how news anchors would become tarnished over at MSNBC b/c of the far-left programming.

    There’s a reason I said I’d give Alex Wagner a primetime show. She’s attractive, chrasmatic, energetic and, with the right producer, I bet MSNBC could build a show around her that’s upbeat, unconventional and really clicks.

  19. Wait, you like Abby Huntsman, Andy? Gee, who knew? Don’t tell me you’re a Carrie Underwood fan, too…🙂

    Don’t forget about Taylor Swift.❤ LOL

    Abby's the reason I started watching The Cycle, but looks aside (though, like Megyn and Erin, it helps), I think she's the complete package as a cable news host/anchor. I really like The Cycle, not just because of Abby, but because it is totally refreshing to watch. It's not the same old stuff.

    And, I agree with your LOD comment. I think he is one who would challenge the left from time to time. I think he could actually be an O’Reilly clone, but with a left perspective, if he was willing (or, if the network would allow him) to be a little more centrist.

    The Last Word was great when it first came on, and still is good, but not as good as it can be. I remember him hammering Democrats for not accepting Republican tax cuts in a budget, along with other things. He even had Democrats on the show and grilled them. Right about after they fired Keith Olbermann, they put a leash on him.

    I just watched Berman & Bolduan and now Banfield. Not one single guest defending Pence. From Hoover to Lougainus to the legal analysts to Gloria Borger (no surprise there); all of them parroted the lefty talking points. They are a left-wing news network. That doesn’t mean, I hate them the way the Fox haters hate Fox.

    Having people coming on to defend Pence would be creating balance for the sake of it. He screwed up, and the law is not only bad, but dangerous, in many ways. Is CNN supposed to have someone come on and defend it and tell us how great it us just to appear like they’re not biased? LOL, that’s laughable. Even hardcore conservatives are beating Mike Pence up over this.

  20. Well, we’ll just agree to disagree on Megyn. Sure, being good looking helps. There aren’t a whole lot of ugly women on TV, period. But, I think Megyn would be a force if she looked like…(fill in the blank for any FNC/CNN/MSNC female host).

    Yes, I forgot about Taylor. Have you found out what it takes to get a date with her yet?

  21. Yes, I forgot about Taylor. Have you found out what it takes to get a date with her yet?

    I could try telling her that I could make sure she could write a really awesome breakup song.🙂

  22. “Thomas Roberts has never been partisan.”

    You could NOT watched Roberts regularly on Way to Early or on MJ. He is a liberal to his core and he said such stupid stuff sometimes even Mika would roll her eyes. That takes a lot to happen.

  23. This video might explain the MSNBC “conundrum”.

    http://therightscoop.com/questions-so-stupid-only-msnbc-can-ask-them-watch-the-hilarious-new-video-from-free-beacon/

    I know, the video was produced by a partisan outlet; but, c’mon, it’s pretty damn funny.

    My favorites are the lack of diversity in emoji’s and whether ISIS went one step too far.

  24. http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/the-msnbc-ratings-keep-getting-worse-204812.html

    But things are still looking grim for MSNBC: Between the hours of 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, for instance, more people were watching Al Jazeera America than MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Thomas Roberts and “The Cycle.”

    Al Jazeera daytime demo usually below 30k…

    Speaking of Alex Wagner, her ratings are one of the worst on MSNBC.

    By Brian Flood on Feb. 17, 2015 – 4:41 PMComment

    MSNBC’s “Now with Alex Wagner” had a rough day on Friday, scoring 15K viewers in the demo at 4pmET, half of the viewers “Ronan Farrow Daily” averaged at 1pmET.

    MSNBC can keep changing hosts, but the network needs to change producers and shows’ content/format. Until then, things will not get better.

  25. Like I said, Alex Wagner can work in primetime in spite of her ratings woes on dayside, IF the network builds something unconventional. Different people sure, but MSNBC is the network that made The Situation with Tucker Carlson work.

  26. Also, regarding NOW’s numbers from last week, Alex wasn’t on.

  27. It’s of course a very small sample but…the fact that AJAM beat MSNBC at any time of any day is unbelievable.

  28. Well, Al Jazeera’s busy doing this thing called news. Sounds like it’s starting to click.

  29. No HD channel for AJAM so no watching for me.

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