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MSNBC continues to take heat on the heels of Rachel Maddow announcing that she would significantly cut her broadcast schedule to focus on other projects, leaving the progressive cable outlet without a reliable replacement for its cash cow.
Senior media correspondent and Puck co-founder Dylan Byers chastised NBC Universal in a scathing Friday night article titled “The Maddow Iceberg,” which explored what’s going on at MSNBC and why management doesn’t seem to have plan to replace its biggest star. Byers, a former media reporter for NBC News, pointed out that his former employer’s recent article about why Americans procrastinate in filing their taxes had a greenhouse feel.
“The bottom line, of course, was that such procrastination is absurd. Tax Day is inevitable, so why does anyone wait until the 11th hour to deal with it? The same question might reasonably be asked about NBC’s handling of Rachel Maddow’s long-awaited departure from her nightly MSNBC show,” Byers wrote.
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Maddow returned last week after a two-month hiatus which saw her show struggle as replacement hosts failed to maintain her viewership, only to announce that she would soon be reducing her on-air duties and would only anchor its program on Monday evening. Maddow’s desire to do less on-air work was well known, and Byers noted that she negotiated “the option to end her nightly show on April 30 and instead focus on other projects. when she signed a $30 million annual contract last year.
“Maddow isn’t just MSNBC’s biggest star — she’s primetime. MSNBC relied on her as the sole ratings powerhouse because she had no remotely comparable talents, and because [NBCUniversal C.E.O. Jeff] Shell & Co. either felt the network could not afford to lose her or because they did not want to be held responsible for her loss,” Byers wrote.
“The overwhelming consensus in the building was that MSNBC had no bench – no heir apparent who could be groomed to take Maddow’s place and deliver comparable ratings. All this to say that Shell and his deputies Cesar Conde and Rashida Jones had about 200 days to come up with a post-Maddow strategy: a bold new recruit to anchor the prime-time lineup, or at least an internal promotion that, paired with the right marketing strategy, could signal the next iteration of the openly liberal cable news network,” Byers wrote. “And yet, here we are.”
MSNBC does not have a replacement for Maddow and will instead use a rotating panel of guest hosts to anchor what Byers called MSNBC Prime’s “bland, talentless title” four days a week when Maddow is busy with other companies.
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“The contingency plan, it seems, isn’t really a plan at all,” he wrote, adding that Maddow staffers “got hit with a ton of bricks” when learned they would be focusing primarily on MSNBC’s 9 p.m. offering instead. Maddow’s other projects. MSNBC, in a statement, insisted to Byers that Maddow “cares deeply about her staff and has been transparent in addressing these issues thoughtfully” during the process.
“Either way, this new structure is confusing on many levels, as the network presumably continues to try to articulate its bold post-Trump vision of what MSNBC is, other than a mix of Joe Scarborough and his friends, NBC News and Woke, well-meaning liberals living in the shadow of a former star who would rather not face the grind,” Byers wrote.
During the first quarter of 2022, MSNBC hemorrhaged an alarming chunk of its viewership compared to the first quarter of last year, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creating a historic news cycle. MSNBC averaged 712,000 viewers, losing 48% of its audience from a year ago.
MSNBC also lost 60% of its audience among the major news demographics of adults aged 25-54, averaging just 87,000 compared to 217,000 last year. Byers, a veteran media reporter who has worked for CNN in addition to NBC, suggested that MSNBC’s prime-time lineup might not even matter.
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“Maddow’s shift to streaming projects and podcasts indicates where consumer interest is headed anyway: away from appointment-based linear viewing and towards on-demand video and audio. If Maddow doesn’t want not stick around to fight the daily ratings game why should MSNBC make a profit just by being part of the cable band and collecting the undercharges As I wrote in March it doesn’t There’s no absolute law that cable news has to be competitive (although it always has been) Shit, if post-Maddow primetime programming doesn’t work, they might replace it with Shark Tank,” he wrote.
Byers then quoted a “high-level insider” from MSNBC who thinks the network is in deep trouble.
“The existential threat to MSNBC is MSNBC itself. It’s a rapidly shrinking iceberg,” the insider told Byers. “I think [Shell] sees little value in a traditional cable anchor…and it may be the thing that melts the iceberg of cable news faster than anything external.”
A former NBC News employee said last week that Condé should lose his job for the way he handled the situation.
“Cesar Conde should be fired for Maddow’s embarrassing one deal, where she’s paid eight figures to barely work as MSNBC ratings plummet. Today’s Show Ratings” “are also catastrophic, the worst in its history,” said a former high-profile NBC News employee. who knows the inner workings of the company told Fox News Digital.