MSNBC anchor Brian Williams is leaving the NBCUniversal News Group when his current contract runs out at the end of the year.
Williams has spent 28 years at NBC News, or as he put it in an internal note to staff on Tuesday, “28 years, 38 countries, 8 Olympic games, 7 Presidential elections, half a dozen Presidents, a few wars, and one SNL.”
Williams, host of MSNBC’s The 11th Hour, says the program “will remain in good hands, produced by the best team in cable news.”
MSNBC president Rashida Jones added in a statement, “Brian’s time at NBC has been marked by breaking countless major stories, attracting leading journalists and guests to his programs, and most especially, great resiliency. He has built a fiercely loyal following for The 11th Hour and we and our viewers will miss his penetrating questions and thoughtful commentary.”
While ratings have dropped off in recent months, The 11th Hour was a success for MSNBC. It was consistently the most-watched show on cable news in its timeslot during the Trump years, and was really an extension of Williams’ role as MSNBC’s breaking news anchor. This was a role he stepped into in 2015 following his removal from NBC Nightly News and a six-month suspension for telling and re-telling the made-up story of being in a helicopter that came under fire during his coverage of the Iraq War in 2003.
Williams joined NBC News in 1993 after a number of years in local news, including a six-year run at CBS’ flagship station WCBS. After serving as NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, the network gave him a nightly newscast on MSNBC and CNBC, The News with Brian Williams, which launched in 1996. Williams became the successor to Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, taking over in 2004 and keeping the newscast in first place in the evening news ratings race over his decade as anchor.
“Good friends were in great supply at NBC,” said Williams. “I was fortunate that everyone I worked with made me better at my job. I’ve had the best colleagues imaginable. That includes great bosses.”
Williams is leaving NBC News, but says he isn’t leaving the business entirely.
“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another. There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere. For the next few months, I’ll be with my family, the people I love most and the people who enabled my career to happen. I will reflect on the kindness people have shown me, and I will pay it forward.”
MSNBC has a lot to deal with in 2022. Rachel Maddow is winding down her day-to-day duties as host of the network’s pivotal 9 p.m. timeslot—and now Williams will be vacating 11 p.m. Maddow and Williams were two of the network’s most-watched hosts in recent years.
It remains to be seen who will take over these timeslots and replace these powerhouse on-air personalities, but of course, we’ll keep our ears to the ground and keep you posted when we learn more.