Archive for the MSNBC Category

Grumble, Grumble…

Posted in MSNBC on August 28, 2015 by icn2

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton has some MSNBC talents, with apparently high opinions of their positions, spouting off about MSNBC’s changes…

Joe Scarborough might be over the moon for MSNBC’s new hard news direction, but some of his on-air colleagues aren’t sharing his cup of “Morning Joe.”

Network insiders told TheWrap at least three of the network’s anchors — two of them higher-profile — are not on board with network chairman Andrew Lack and president Phil Griffin’s daytime overhaul from progressive firebrand to traditional news format.

“Hard news is a mistake,” one insider told TheWrap of direct conversations with one anchor.
Another anchor has said in public that Lack and Griffin have a fundamental misunderstanding of MSNBC’s audience.

“Older people aren’t eager to get their news from people like Ronan Farrow or Chris Hayes,” the anchor told TheWrap’s insider.

First of all there’s really only one talent on MSNBC that falls into the category of High Profile that counts; Maddow. And the way Chariton puts out that she seems to be backing this, at least in part…unless this is some sort of feint to make it look like Maddow’s publicly backing it while privately carping about it…I don’t think it’s her.

So who’s left? The only other active anchor on the news side that falls into the High Profile category is Andrea Mitchell and I can’t see her carping about a pivot away from opinion to news seeing as she was one of the people who carped to Jeff Zucker way back in 2007 about MSNBC putting Olbermann and Matthews together covering the conventions.

So who does that leave? Well nobody else on MSNBC’s news side falls into the category of “High Profile”. So that leaves the opinion side of MSNBC’s schedule…what’s left of it…as the probable source for these grumblings.

To that I say…consider the source. You guys had your shot. You couldn’t get it done. This is the result. Deal with it.

Kate Snow to MSNBC?

Posted in MSNBC on August 27, 2015 by icn2

Politico’s Mike Allen Mediate’s Joe Concha scoops that Kate Snow may get a big role on MSNBC. I think Concha overstates things a bit but the sentiment is well well founded. Snow would be a good choice to come on to MSNBC. I never understood why she jumped to NBC in the first place. She had the better higher profile gig at ABC at the time she left.

Regarding filling the aforementioned void, a well-placed source informs me that the network is eyeing Kate Snow of NBC News to play a bigger role in MSNBC’s revised daytime lineup. According to the same source, NBC News President Andy Lack is also looking for Tamron Hall, Andrea Mitchell and Thomas Roberts to expand their existing roles as well. But the Snow aspect is the key nugget to focus on here, as she comes from the Mothership with arguably the deepest resume you’ll see when stacking it up against others in cable news:

For starters, Snow knows the political landscape, have covered four presidential elections, Congress and the White House. She’s been a national correspondent for NBC News since 2010, packaging a wide range of stories for The NBC Nightly News and Dateline. Prior to joining the Peacock, the Cornell and Georgetown grad anchored the weekend edition of ABC’s Good Morning America. Before that, she was ABC’s White House correspondent. And prior to that, she was a Congressional Correspondent for CNN. And she’s built this entire LinkedIn page before the age of 46.

Al Sharpton Moves to Sundays…

Posted in MSNBC on August 26, 2015 by icn2

The New York Daily News’ David Hinckley writes that Al Sharpton is losing his weekday slot…for Sunday only.

The Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show is moving from prime time to church time.

As part of an ongoing shakeup at the cable news channel, Sharpton’s “Politics Nation” will shift from 6 p.m. weeknights to 8 a.m. Sundays.

His last weeknight show will be Sept. 4 and his first Sunday show Oct. 4.

Sharpton deflected a suggestion that he had been demoted.

“I’m very happy,” he said Wednesday. “First, I can reach a wider audience of people who don’t get home by 6 at night. Second, I can now get the A-list guests and newsmakers I want. And third, a Sunday morning host is what I always wanted to be.

“I never wanted to be a weeknight pundit. I wanted to be a Sunday morning newsmaker. I wanted to be Dr. Martin Luther King, not Larry King.”

Uh-huh. If that’s what he wanted he could have stipulated as much and MSNBC would have accomodated him just to get him. He could have said no to a weekday gig if his heart was truly set on Sundays.

Related: Politico’s Alex Weprin writes that Sharpton’s slot will revert to the boilerplate “MSNBC Live” until something else can be named to take its place.

Also Related: CNN’s Brian Stelter hears that the 6pm slot may eventually become a political roundtable program.

Shooting Fish In a Barrel…

Posted in MSNBC on August 5, 2015 by icn2

Ring of Fire is trying to organize a response to MSNBC’s pulling the plug on its 3-5 block (and other past “anti-progressive” transgressions)

The following loyal (or should we say former loyal) viewer of MSNBC sent the below email to Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC, expressing her disappointment with the demise of a once powerful Progressive voice in the media.

(snipping off emailer’s name)

VERY IMPORTANT: We hope our ROF audience will send their thoughts to Mr. Griffin at Please send us a copy of your email to and we will post on our web site.

I’m going to now quote from this email because it’s just too good to pass up.

Note to Progressives who will no doubt take offense: I do this not because I care whether MSNBC tilts Progressive, Conservative, Libertarian, or Bull Moose (Google it). I do this because if you want to succeed at this you need to make a convincing argument. This qualifies as a swing and a miss at worst, a foul tip at best.

Dear Mr. Griffin,

When MSNBC was created, I had such high hopes for a new type of media, one that would be progressive and allow talk show hosts to express their opinions without having boundaries. The progressive audience had some of the best of progressive media: Keith Olbermann, Martin Bashir, Karen Finley, Joy Reid, Ronan Farrow, Alex Wagner and Ed Schultz.

When MSNBC was created it was a straight news channel. When MSNBC was created none of the people mentioned were considered part of progressive media. When MSNBC was created there wasn’t any kind of “progressive audience” as far as cable news was concerned. IF you’re going to make an argument make sure you’ve got your facts straight. And if you like your progressive voices so much you should know how to spell their names. It’s F-I-N-N-E-Y.

The letter writer then goes on to detail their feeling about the loss of Ed Schultz. I won’t argue this point much. I’ve already said Schultz carved out a niche no one else touched in cable news. Had the writer just stuck to this instead of venturing into territory they didn’t fully comprehend the specifics of, this letter would have resonated much stronger than it now will. However the first paragraph and what follows below undermine all that.

Mr. Griffin, you started a new kind of television. I kept hearing that MSNBC had low ratings but how could this be and who was being polled?

Uh…a random sampling of people. Progressives, Non-progressives, independents, conservatives, anyone. That’s the point of ratings. They measure everyone. If they only measured one subset, they aren’t very useful to advertisers who want to reach the broadest audience possible.

After all, you covered the Presidential Correspondents Dinner. You were the only channel that got this honor.

Wrong. All the cable channels did. Never put arguments into your appeal which are demonstrably false.

MSNBC covered the debates.

So did the other channels (when allowed to. Some debates are exclusive to certain channels, especially in the primaries).

It was the only channel I watched. In fact, since it was created, it has been my go to channel. When people ask what I watch, I tell them I’m an MSNBC addict.

Ok. But you and people like you aren’t enough. That’s why MSNBC’s ratings fell. Not enough people besides the “true believers” watched. It’s a nice appeal but it’s from a point of weakness. And MSNBC executives know it.

I love Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel and Lawrence O’Donnell. Now what, Mr. Griffin? Will their voices be silenced too? Will MSNBC become another CNN?

No. Even if it wanted to, it couldn’t. It doesn’t have the resources. And NBC doesn’t want to give MSNBC that level of resources because it doesn’t see the money in it.

P.S. Please take “Lockup” off!!! It is a insult to a very intelligent audience. What is the point of this show? You could use this time to educate your viewers similar to what “Vice” does. Show documentaries. Put on something that makes us think.

On this point, the writer and I are in lockstep agreement. But that’s not going to change.

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss?

Posted in MSNBC on August 3, 2015 by icn2

Today MSNBC’s 3-6 news block debuted (Note: the 5 is going to Chuck Todd soon enough). It was Luke Russert at 3 and Ayman Mohyeldin at 4. So far so good.

But then the 5 came along with Jonathan Capehart anchoring a straight newscast. Capehart may be an accomplished editor but his current roles of being on the Washington Post Editorial Board and as a POV contributor for MSNBC should have precluded his selection. Here is MSNBC trying to do a reset back to news and on its first day of the new schedule it throws an opinion person into the newscast.

Programs come and they go. So does talent. But some things, it seems, never change…at least not for Phil Griffin. He’s still clinging to POV blending with news apparently.

Selective Memory…

Posted in MSNBC on August 3, 2015 by icn2

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton writes about the “new” MSNBC daytime through rose colored glasses and with a big assist from a selective memory infected Cenk Uygur…

In the fall of 2011, MSNBC was riding high.

Occupy Wall Street had ignited a sleeping giant, bringing disenchanted Americans of all ages to Zucotti Park and cities across the country to rail against corporate greed and capitalism gone wild. The movement, mixed with the buildup to a pivotal presidential election, led to record ratings for MSNBC, which had firmly become the media megaphone for progressiveness.

I would know–I was there.

As a booking producer from 2011-2012, I saw firsthand the excitement swirling around the newsroom as anchors hosted from the protest scene; the energy behind an election with very high stakes.

Three years later, MSNBC took a chainsaw to its daytime lineup, canceling three opinion programs last Thursday–and will soon tinker with its primetime lineup–evolving itself to become more of an NBC News-lite.

A decision that will likely doom the network to a permanent third place finish.

“Being progressive isn’t the problem, it’s the solution,” former MSNBC anchor and host of The Young Turks Cenk Uygur told TheWrap about the “Lean Forward” network.

I’m going to be talking in shorthand here because three years ago I wrote extensively about MSNBC’s POV metamorphosis. If you aren’t familiar with that deep dive, I suggest you read it and the two appendices first.

I will stipulate to Charlton’s view of the inner workings of MSNBC at that time and the mood generated by Occupy Wall Street. He was there. I wasn’t.

Having stipulated that, I have to ask the obvious question:

What happened to that momentum? Occupy died out years before MSNBC cratered in daytime. Chariton essentially makes the argument that MSNBC fumbled a golden opportunity and that it will only get worse by reverting to straight news. Well, ok…but how do you reconcile the fact that MSNBC “fumbled” it away while at the same time it pivoted hard to the left in dayside; the very thing Uygur says is “the solution”?

You can’t reconcile that. Not without understanding MSNBC’s prior attempts at POV under Griffin (chronicled here and here)

I will not argue that going Progressive was a bad idea. The numbers don’t convincingly validate that statement. MSNBC’s Progressive turn in primetime worked from 2008-2011. It worked because it had Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell each doing a different take on Progressivism with a different voice – Olbermann with his take no prisoners fire and brimstone, Maddow with her erudite wonky approach, and O’Donnell coming down somewhere in between the two. It worked.

Here’s where it didn’t work…extending progressive POV analysis all over dayside. It didn’t work with Martin Bashir. It didn’t work with Dylan Ratigan who was more populist than progressive. It didn’t work with Alex Wagner. It didn’t work well enough with Ed Schultz. It sure as hell didn’t work with Ronan Farrow, Joy Reid, or The Cycle. It might have worked with Cenk Uygur had that relationship been given a chance to really blossom (we’ll never know for sure).

The point, which both Uygur and (to a lesser extent) Chariton fail to acknowledge, is that the record throughout MSNBC’s history has been consistently clear. Despite three POV analysis attempts launched by MSNBC since 2007, Primetime was always the driving force behind MSNBC’s ratings success. It’s never been dayside. MSNBC’s Total Day numbers went up because Primetime drove them up. They never went up because dayside drove them up. Certainly not by itself.

A longtime network insider isn’t buying into the hard news pivot either: “They’re trying something that’s already been tried 15 years ago; I’m skeptical whether it will work,” the individual told TheWrap.

At last week’s network town hall, MSNBC president Phil Griffin answered a question on why executives were again embracing news. “What makes you think this is going to change anything?” one staffer asked.

Fair points, both. There’s nothing in MSNBC’s history to suggest going back to news is going to lead MSNBC to ratings nirvana. But then that’s not the point of going back to news. The point of going back to news is to stabilize MSNBC dayside, to get it back to where it was before it lurched POV.

It’s a holding action, nothing more. Eventually we will see MSNBC return to more news-less shows from 3-5 (5 is already dedicated to politics with Chuck Todd). But that’s for later, when NBC has had time to figure out what it wants to do with the 3-5 block.

But to understand why MSNBC’s hard news shift won’t work, it’s necessary to look at what got it to this point. In the 2000’s, MSNBC had no real identity.

“They had Scarborough, a conservative pushing Republican talking points, in the morning for three hours,” Uygur continued. “They had Chris Matthews who shifts in the wind – thought George Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore and then had a thrill up his leg with Barack Obama.”

Then Keith Olbermann lit a fire under 30 Rock executives’ seats, all-but rejecting the segments produced for him at 8 p.m., going renegade to become the media opponent to President Bush.

Here is where the rose colored glasses come in to play, for it incorrectly and inaccurately minimizes the impact of Morning Joe during that period. Morning Joe killed off American Morning after CNN tried a revolving door of permanent hosts and co-hosts with no success at gaining ground on Morning Joe’s ratings success.

We can have an argument about whether Morning Joe is now the right show to have on MSNBC’s air. Indeed, numerous people have written at length that Morning Joe ain’t what it used to be. There is some truth to that argument. But let’s not conveniently ignore an unpalatable truth for Progressives; Morning Joe used to be a key part of MSNBC’s success. It had developed its own brand and for years it was a successful one in the ratings.

After President Obama was reelected, MSNBC saw a ratings dip like other media outlets. The drop evolved to falling off a cliff, as 2014’s third quarter was the network’s lowest-rated quarter in seven years; it’s total 2014 numbers bumped the network back to number 3 in the advertising-coveted 25-54 demo.

“Their strategy for developing talent has broken down and after Olbermann left, they had a real hard time trying to mint new anchors that would hold on to the audiences Olbermann and Maddow had pioneered,” Erig Deggans, NRP TV critic, told TheWrap.

No argument here. This is the reason POV failed on dayside – why it has repeatedly failed on dayside. It’s also why primetime for MSNBC ain’t what it used to be. You have to have the right people to pull it off.

This falls entirely on Phil Griffin’s shoulders. His idea for POV has been to basically clone Maddow wherever possible. Chris Hayes? Clone. Farrow and Reid? Clone. Harris-Perry? Clone. Even Kornacki falls more in the Maddow mold than the Olbermann one.

This is what killed POV for MSNBC and dragged down dayside…sameness. Take a look at FNC’s lineup. You will be hard pressed to find clones of anyone there. They may all (mostly) talk about the same things but they all (mostly) approach them differently with different voices.

But the network actually did develop one personality that resonated during the post-Olbermann era. Ed Schultz was doing well for the channel at 8 p.m., drawing close to a million viewers in the final quarter of 2012, nearing what Olbermann averaged in his heyday.

This is true but only to a point. Schultz did carve out a niche no-one else at MSNBC was going after. But Schultz’s appeal was limited and he had issues. Furthermore, it’s an open question whether Schultz would have been able to hold on to that million viewer average in the long run. We’ll never know for sure.

What we do know is that Schultz didn’t fit the Griffin mold for POV anchors.

All of these moves had one thing in common: short-term thinking instead of a long term vision; one where MSNBC would stake its claim as the unabashed media champion for liberalism–a network that would give you the news, but also fight with its audience for progress.

“They didn’t know if their mandate was to be progressive, to be objective anchors or to be just pro-Democrats,” Uygur said. “Now they are going to have a conservative on for three hours in the morning, then be a second rate CNN in the daytime and then have some progressives at night. What in the world is that brand?”

Well actually Cenk, MSNBC is going to have the format that it had when it knocked off CNN for second place. Because that’s what MSNBC looked like from 2007-2011, excluding the two short lived dayside forays into POV analysis.

Does that mean MSNBC is headed back up now? Absolutely not. It’s not a given. I’m highly skeptical. My skepticism is based on the fact that Primetime is still a problem. And without Primetime to lead the way MSNBC as a whole is going to be stuck. As long as Hayes is there as the anti lead-in to Maddow, MSNBC is going to be in trouble in primetime. If Morning Joe can’t return to where it was a few years ago, MSNBC is going to be in trouble in mornings.

This is a partial reset. It doesn’t mean this is what MSNBC will look like in two years time. It does mean that MSNBC has finally realized that its latest attempt at POV analysis in dayside has been an abject failure. And that’s all it means.

The “New” MSNBC…

Posted in MSNBC on August 2, 2015 by icn2

The LA Times’ Stephen Battaglio writes about the newly revamped MSNBC, set to debut tomorrow…and Brian Williams later on…

NBC News executives believe they have a window of opportunity through 2016 to put MSNBC on a new track. Over that time, news junkies are bound to be transfixed by a presidential election with no incumbent and an eclectic array of candidates. That includes a wildly unpredictable outsider in billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, the current leader in the Republican polls, who is capable of launching a campaign outside of the two-party system.

Despite its ratings woes, MSNBC remains a highly profitable operation thanks to the subscriber fees it takes in from cable and satellite operators. In its early days, MSNBC gave NBC News anchors and journalists added exposure, enabling it to gain an advantage on its broadcast competitors and helping to develop a deep bench of new talent. Four of the current “Today” show co-hosts, including Savannah Guthrie, came up through MSNBC.

Now NBC News franchises such as “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” and “Meet the Press” are in a dogfight to retain their ratings supremacy. Getting additional exposure on MSNBC could help them again, Klein said.

“When they first went and split [NBC News and MSNBC] and let MSNBC get into liberal opinion, they had the luxury of a news brand that was riding high,” he said. “Now they need to consolidate.”


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