MSNBC upends most of its lineup

As we’ve discussed before, the rumors have been circulating for some time that MSNBC, which constantly gets hammered in the ratings for most of their time slots, was on the verge of shaking things up. This week Phil Griffin started bringing the hammer down and it looks like there are a lot of nails in his sights. The first pair of “changes” to be reported were the impending departures of the afternoon lineup in the persons of Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid.

In a bid to stem cataclysmic ratings declines and waning relevance, MSNBC has cancelled the daytime shows “Ronan Farrow Daily” and “The Reid Report.”

In their place, MSNBC will bring in Thomas Roberts to anchor a new daily two-hour block of news programming from 1-3 pm, a network spokesperson told the On Media blog. Roberts will stop anchoring Way Too Early, the 5:30-a.m. show that precedes Morning Joe…

In a statment, and MSNBC spokesperson said the move was part of MSNBC’s plan to make daysing programming exclusively “news-focused.” The daytime schedule also features “The Daily Rundown” and “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

It wasn’t long before news of an evening programming change came along as well.

In the relatively near term, two well-placed sources predicted to The Daily Beast, Chris Hayes will be relieved of his weak-performing 8 p.m. show All In, to be replaced by the current 9 p.m. host of The Rachel Maddow Show, while a talent search is currently underway to fill the prime-time slot to be vacated by Maddow…

In the longer term, these sources said, the Rev. Al Sharpton—a larger than life personality who attracts a 35 percent African-American audience but continues, after 3½ years of nightly practice, to wrestle with his Teleprompter–could eventually be moved from his weeknight 6 p.m. slot to a weekend time period, as MNSBC President Phil Griffin attempts to reverse significant viewership slides by accentuating straight news over left-leaning opinion.

None of this should be terribly shocking. I was never clear as to how Farrow wound up with a show. The guy is a Yale Law School grad and perpetual student whose sole claim to fame was being the son of Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra, depending who you ask. Apparently Griffin thought that level of “star power” would make him a draw, but he never got any sort of an audience going. On Wednesday his show pulled in 36K viewers in the key 25-54 demographic. In New York City you can reach just about that many people by shouting out your window. Joy Reid wasn’t much better.

The evening shift was also expected. Chris Hayes did fairly well on weekends when he started (with “fairly” being a relative term”) but after making the jump to the 8 p.m. slot he tanked. On Wednesday this week he was beaten at a pace of at least two to one in the 25-54 demo by O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper and Shark Tank. He only managed to beat Nancy Grace by 6K. I should point out that even though I completely disagree with most of Hayes’ views and find some of his commentary offensive, I wasn’t cheering for him to lose his job. The guy deserves to eat if he can make a go of it, but there just wasn’t an audience for that product.

Griffin has a different problem with Sharpton, as we’ve talked about before. He’s made a deal with the devil there and if he doesn’t want the corporation to show up on Al’s National Action Network Naughty List and face boycotts and charges of racism, he can’t afford to just fire him from his unwatchable show. Moving him to the weekends may put him out of the spotlight, but he’ll still be stuck paying him off and losing a time slot.

The linked articles above suggest that Phil Griffin is looking to stop “going left” as much as they do today and try to focus more on “straight news.” This takes them out of the fight with Fox and thrusts them head to head with CNN. That may be an easier foe to tackle, but the match-up presents other challenges. Currently, Morning Joe is the only show they have that beats CNN on a regular basis. And for the rest of the day, people looking for breaking headlines are used to turning to CNN because they assume that MSNBC will have somebody preaching leftist propaganda at them rather than covering the latest stories. Changing that expectation would take time.

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