Ari Melber Named MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent…

Politico’s Hadas Gold writes that Ari Melber has been named to MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent…

Melber’s appointment comes amid a larger effort to shakeup dayside programming at the network, though an MSNBC spokesperson was quick to say that Melber’s new role is no sign of changes for “The Cycle.” Like many of MSNBC’s daytime programs, “The Cycle’s” ratings have suffered significant declines. On one day in March, the program had fewer viewers than Al Jazeera America, though a spokesperson pointed out that last Friday the show had 75,000 viewers in the demo, their best since January.

Thus begets the question: If Melber’s appointment is no sign of changes for “The Cycle”, how does this move the needle in terms of the “larger effort to shakeup dayside programming”? It doesn’t. Mediaite’s Joe Concha loves the move

Talk to anyone who watches MSNBC–and it’s understood the number of those actually watching continues to drop as the network endures its toughest stretch in at least a decade–and many will tell you that its most unsung and therefore underrated host is the 34-year-old Melber. What makes the Michigan and Cornell Law grad stand out? From my perspective, it’s quite simple: his genuine curiosity to find the why and the how behind the stories he covers.

Concha inadvertently underscores the problem MSNBC faces while at the same time showing why Melber’s promotion, while maybe deserved, isn’t going to contribute to solving it.

MSNBC’s problem is equal parts perception, momentum, and genuine format rejection. You can’t separate the three because they all tie in together.

The tune out…the initial tune out which started a couple of years ago…was textbook format rejection. Too many viewers were no longer buying into what Phil Griffin was trying to sell; a network built around POV analysis fronted by young cookie cutter wonkish progressives. While such a format might have worked if offset by a counter strategy that offered something different, Griffin tried to cover too much of MSNBC with it and that kind of uniformity was rejected by the viewers.

That rejection created a perception problem…that MSNBC was in trouble. It was a perception firmly grounded in reality but it was a perception that took on the form of conventional wisdom; a conventional wisdom which got driven home by articles in the media. This in turn created downward momentum pressure. No longer was MSNBC being trumpeted as the hip network of the wonky left…the kind of positive message the network tried like hell to cultivate and emphasize. Now the network was being talked about as the boring network where one wonky left show followed another.

That message has done as much damage to MSNBC’s viewership as the initial tune out did. It re-enforced a downward ratings spiral the network has yet to stem the tide on. And it has spread throughout MSNBC’s lineup and has contributed to trouble on Morning Joe, a show which still functions nearly the same as it used to but is now viewed as “out of step”. That’s what perception and momentum can do to a show through no fault of its own.

This is the cable news equivalent of a bank run. A perfectly healthy bank, or in this case a marginally healthy bank, is suddenly viewed as unhealthy. What happens next? Depositors withdraw their funds and now the bank is in fact unhealthy and it stands a very real chance of collapsing. Same thing here. Enough articles come out saying MSNBC is screwed up and people start saying, “Why do I want to be associated with it?” Perception creates momentum and momentum, in this case negative momentum, speeds up tune out.

CNN faced a similar problem just a few years ago. CNN’s programming wasn’t nearly as bad, it’s news delivery not as terrible, and yet the perception and momentum was out there that it was. So things continued to slide until Jeff Zucker came along and changed the equation with a radical rethink. While I’m still not a fan of the strategy of using what amounts to infotainment instead of news as its bridgehead, the strategy worked. It broke the downward pressure. We can argue about whether CNN is cool again or not but that’s a better alternative than the storyline of “CNN is broken” which the network had to contend with previously.

What MSNBC needs now is a similar kind of wholesale rethink of the network’s focus which can break that downward momentum “MSNBC is boring” message pressure. MSNBC needs to think big and think radical. Just as CNN did.

But we haven’t seen that, at least not yet. What we have seen are changes on the fringes. Cancelling the low hanging fruit shows like Farrow and Reid’s while preserving the heart of the network’s wonky POV analysis lineup. MSNBC has not thown in the towel, it has just waved it around a bit. It’s tinkering 101.

Does anyone think Hayes’ show has any chance of turning things around? I mean does anyone outside of MSNBC think it? Yet, there it still is. Are we reading at all about big turn arounds for The Cycle or Alex Wagner’s show? No, we are not. Is NBC still showing the same level of confidence in Maddow that it’s still putting her on the air outside of MSNBC like it would just a year or two ago. No, it isn’t.

This is a classic holding action. MSNBC is still betting the farm on a system that brought it to where it currently is. It’s rearranging the deck chairs instead of fixing the hole in the side of the ship. The latest deck chair to be moved is Ari Melber’s.

17 Responses to “Ari Melber Named MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent…”

  1. JAMBROB@aol.com Says:

    ABOUT TIME. WONDER WHY HE NEVER LEFT WHEN SILLY FOLKS BECAME “STARS.”

  2. Well speaking as someone who watches MSNBC because it was “a network built around POV analysis fronted by young cookie cutter wonkish progressives” I would tend to disagree with your ‘analysis’.

    Like most cable news viewers I don’t like all the shows on my favorite network but I have no problem with smart young hosts giving the news with a progressive bent. It’s why I watch the network.

    “What MSNBC needs now is a similar kind of wholesale rethink of the network’s focus which can break that downward momentum “MSNBC is boring” message pressure.”

    ^^The thing that’s missing from your analysis (rant) as to what is wrong with MSNBC is any idea of who exactly you would like to see hired to replace all these failed “cookie cutter wonkish progressives” and what format you think would increase the viewership.

    “MSNBC needs to think big and think radical.”

    What exactly would you like them to do?

    “Just as CNN did.”

    ^^CNN is becoming a reality/documentary network. Are you suggesting MSNBC stop doing news?

    “Does anyone think Hayes’ show has any chance of turning things around? I mean does anyone outside of MSNBC think it? Yet, there it still is. Are we reading at all about big turn arounds for The Cycle or Alex Wagner’s show? No, we are not. Is NBC still showing the same level of confidence in Maddow that it’s still putting her on the air outside of MSNBC like it would just a year or two ago. No, it isn’t.

    This is a classic holding action. MSNBC is still betting the farm on a system that brought it to where it currently is. It’s rearranging the deck chairs instead of fixing the hole in the side of the ship. The latest deck chair to be moved is Ari Melber’s.”

    ^^Shesssh Spud you sound like farris or LS. Mindless ranting without any real proposed solutions.🙂

    When you put up some actual ideas that will garner more cable news viewers, without losing the ones they already have, I’d be happy to debate them with you.

  3. savefarris Says:

    Well speaking as someone who watches MSNBC because it was “a network built around POV analysis fronted by young cookie cutter wonkish progressives” I would tend to disagree with your ‘analysis’.

    Like most cable news viewers I don’t like all the shows on my favorite network but I have no problem with smart young hosts giving the news with a progressive bent. It’s why I watch the network.

    You’re giving short shrift to the “cookie cutter” portion of spud’s argument. FNC’s shows have subtle and distinct variations.

    Bair is the straight news show.
    Gretta is the sane Nancy Grace.
    Billo is the populist blowhard.
    Megyn is Barbara Walters 2.0.
    Hannity is the party hack.

    It’s not unusual to have nights where all 5 shows lead off with 5 different and distinct stories.

    Compare that to MSNBC, where it’s 5 hours of Hipster snark about the same stories. (with the slight exception of Sharpton, who does Hipster snark with a racist twang.)

    People are tuning away from MSNBC because if you see one show that evening, you’ve literally seen them all.

  4. Farris, how you see FNC and MSNBC shows and how I see FNC and MSNBC shows are just not the same. You have your opinion and I have mine. Both are valid for what we want in a cable news network but your opinion of MSNBC hosts is only relevant to conservatives just as mine of FNC hosts is only relevant to liberals.
    We may claim to speak for the majority of non-partisan viewers; but we don’t.

    Each viewer sees what he wants to see in a host or program based on their own personal biases and what they find entertaining or informative. Good ratings come when a large number of potential viewers see the same positive things in a host or program.

    The thing is viewers used to have a limited variety in what they could watch in cable news and now they can watch their news filtered through as many filters as they want. If MSNBC goes all FNC on me I’ll just watch news somewhere else; either on TV or the internet; where I can see it the way I want.

  5. BTW farris why would I, or you for that matter, want to watch a “sane Nancy Grace”, “populist blowhard”, “Barbara Walters 2.0” or “party hack”?😉

  6. savefarris Says:

    Wow, fritz. You COMPLETELY missed the point.

    Just because a channel is all-left or all-right leaning doesn’t mean there can’t be subtle variations in substance and tone.

    Let’s try this again:

    Which lineup of speakers would you find most interesting:

    Joe Manchin
    Bernie Sanders
    Liz Warren
    Jon Tester
    Bob Menendez

    … or …

    Dick Durbin
    Chuck Schumer
    Ed Markey
    Patrick Lahey
    Sherrod Brown

    They’re both lineups of Democratic senators. But one group has a diverse set of opinions and delivery styles within Blue-Land. While the other quintet sings from the exact same set of talking points in the exact same manner every single day.

    I know which group I’d find more boring and tune-outable. THAT’S MSNBC’s problem.

  7. I get your point farris. I just don’t agree. Viewers say they want a variety of opinions. Almost all really don’t.

    For example, switch out Megyn Kelly and Rachel Maddow. Kelly fans would watch Kelly on MSNBC and same goes for Maddow on FNC. Almost no one stays at MSNBC or FNC to watch someone they don’t agree with.

    Ratings say less viewers are watching MSNBC, for whatever reason. You can make a case that the preforming skills of the various hosts is the reason for the decline. I certainly watch fewer shows on the network (Schultz, MH-P and Sharpton) for that very reason. But you can’t make a case that the ideology of the hosts is the reason because Schultz, MH-P and Sharpton all are liberals.

    Fewer liberals are not watching MSNBC, at the moment, but it may be they, just like me, are they are getting more of their news from other sources like the internet.

  8. “MSNBC: The Place for Tax Cheats!”

    ^^Cheap shot farris. I don’t care for MH-P as a host but they, like many, many Americans, owe money in back taxes. She has already paid a large portion off and will pay off the rest as soon as possible.

    I wouldn’t make fun of someone’s tax problems when you support the Republican Party home planet of the tax cheat.

  9. savefarris Says:

    they, like many, many Americans, owe money in back taxes.

    True, but then again, I’m not using a news network platform to demonize others for “not paying their fair share”. If you can’t pay your own tax bill, you don’t get to say d**k about anybody else’s.

    Say, didn’t MHP complain that Mitt Romney wasn’t paying enough in taxes?

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/49623241/ns/msnbc/#.VTBP001_lD8 (Greg Palace Segment)

    …she sure did… Now we know … the rest of the story.™

    Oh, and as for which party is the “tax cheat-iest” … Who you got?

    I got:
    MHP
    Sharpton
    Charlie Rangel
    Ray Nagin
    Kwame Kilpatrick
    Al Franken
    Sherrod Brown
    Tom Daschle
    James Trafficant
    John Kerry’s yacht
    Claire McKaskill’s private jet
    Bill Nelson’s cattle ranch
    the freaking Treasurer of the Freaking United States Tim Freaking Geithner

  10. Hello fritz? Are you there? Hello? Hello? It’s been hours and we are still waiting for your answer!

  11. Farris is actually right on this one. I don’t think he’s saying MSNBC’s opinions need to be so diverse, but Alex Wagner, Ed Shultz, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow all do the same exact show. #boring

    And everyone knows Chris Hayes’ show is the #1 problem. Even if it has gotten good, it’s not turning around now.

  12. savefarris Says:

    MSNBC: Lien Forward

    (kicking myself for not thinking of it first)

  13. I saw a clip this morning of Jeb Bush commenting on why the Feds didn’t need to raise the minimum wage. His solutions were the usual suspects of tax credits, leave it to the states etc. But one proposed solution caught my ear as a bit strange.

    He suggested giving more training to workers would allow them to leave their low wage job and move on to a better one. While he is certainly correct that more training would help the worker get a better job and I fully agree with that point; it does nothing to raise the wage of the job the worker has just left and that job would then be filled with another worker at the same low wage.

    It’s the perfect strawman argument. It sounds really reasonable but does nothing to solve the problem in question. Nice one Jeb.

  14. savefarris Says:

    it does nothing to raise the wage of the job the worker has just left

    Yeah, it’s called Economics.

    Artificially raising the price on jobs just means that McDonald’s & Co.’s plans to replace everyone with robots and iPads will continue unabated and make the unemployment rate among part-timers skyrocket that much quicker.

  15. Fritz, it’s not my job to provide solutions to MSNBC’s problems. It is my job to provide analysis of what’s not working and why. As I see it of course…

  16. […] reverse trajectory significantly for the network because that is not what ails it. As I wrote recently MSNBC is facing significant downward ratings pressure that is just as much about perception as it […]

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