‘Morning Joe’ on CBS?

By Alex Weprin 

Mediaite’s Colby Hall reports that CBS News is “close” to a deal with “Morning Joe” executive producer Chris Licht, adding that the goal is to woo hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough to the network when their contracts expire “within the year.”

TVNewser has heard the Licht rumblings as well, but the likelihood that Joe and Mika would make the jump to CBS does raise some red flags.

The first is mentioned by Hall, who notes that “Morning Joe” is kind of a wonky program, and may not translate to a broadcast network. “[T]hey would probably have to change the show significantly from its primarily insider political buzz to appeal to a broader audience,” Hall wrote.


The other has to do with the host’s contracts with NBCUniversal:

As we reported back in 2008, Scarborough’s last contract with MSNBC was set to expire in March, 2011. Two months later and he is still on MSNBC.

This implies that Scarborough has signed a new agreement with MSNBC, probably sometime in the last six months or so. If that is the case, it is highly unlikely he will be leaving the network anytime soon, or that his contract would be up “within the year.” A source in the talent agent community said they heard second-hand that Scarborough’s contract with MSNBC has “at least two more years” left on it.

As it happens in March, Starbucks signed a new, long-term agreement to sponsor “Morning Joe.”  If there were serious discussions of Scarborough leaving, that might have been a harder sell to the coffee chain. (In the gift bags at the MSNBC White House Correspondents Dinner After-party: Joe & Mika-branded coffee.)

It is not unusual for talent to quietly extend contracts with their employers. TVNewser did not get wind of Nancy Grace’s contract extension at HLN until months after it happened.

As for Brzezinski, she appeared on “Today” this morning where she talked candidly about a contract dispute she had with MSNBC:

“When this show started Joe was making 14 times more than me,” she said, adding that “At one point I was going to leave.”

She also said “I took a couple of different ways in terms of getting a raise this time around,” implying that she too signed a contract extension recently.

Could CBS recruit Joe and Mika once their contracts expire? Sure, but they might be waiting a long time. Given how fast the TV environment shifts, by the time 2012… or even 2013, rolls around, CBS may have decided on other plans.