MSNBC Begins ‘Pivot Towards Live, Breaking News Coverage’

By Chris Ariens 

Call it MSNBC 3.0 or maybe even 4.0. Following the cancellation of three daytime shows (after the axing earlier this year of two others) the NBCU network is undergoing yet another transformation beginning today.

MSNBC “will begin the pivot towards live, breaking news coverage – with interim hosts from among our very talented ranks,” said network president Phil Griffin in a note to staffers last Thursday. MSNBC will scale back its opinion during the day but keep its “opinion page” at night, continuing to take a page from Fox News Channel’s successful formula.

Today, replacing The Cycle at 3 p.m. ET, was Luke Russert in the anchor chair. Another news hour will occupy the 4 p.m. time slot. And in a few weeks, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd will begin anchoring an hour each day at 5 p.m. ET.

leanforwardMSNBC also recently did away with the rotating Lean Forward branding in the top right of the screen which would trade spots with the msnbc logo. The network has been using the Lean Forward slogan for nearly 5 years. It did appear in upper left of the screen during Russert’s 3 p.m. hour, likely because it doesn’t have a show name.

Opinion programming during the day was an outgrowth of a formula that proved popular in the evenings, when Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow consistently gave MSNBC second-place in prime time. Olbermann departed in January 2011, but the network doubled down on its progressive programming strategy adding more hours to the daytime schedule. But a resurgent CNN began to overtake MSNBC in 2013.

Last Friday, three long-running shows signed off: the goodbyes included a fond farewell from the hosts of The Cycle, Alex Wagner‘s last word (“Woo… shit”) and a no show by Ed Schultz on the final Ed Show. Michael Eric Dyson filled in.

The changes at MSNBC coincide with the return of Brian Williams to the NBC fold. The former Nightly news anchor has been tapped as breaking news anchor for daytime programs.