Phil Griffin on MSNBC’s Primetime Strategy: ‘Don’t empty the stadium’

By Alex Weprin 

The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at MSNBC in a  post-Comcast world. The Inquirer has two hooks to its story: the fact that Pennsylvania native Chris Matthews is a prominent part of the network’s lineup, and that Philadelphia-based Comcast is now the majority owner of NBCUniversal, which owns MSNBC.

The article gets MSNBC president Phil Griffin to weigh in a bit on the channel’s primetime strategy:

“Don’t empty the stadium” is the phrase they use at MSNBC, Griffin said – in other words, don’t insert a host into a prime-time slot who would lead viewers to switch channels.

What has helped MSNBC’s ratings, Griffin said he believed, is the smooth flow of hosts that begins with Matthews at 7 p.m., then continues with Lawrence O’Donnell at 8, Rachel Maddow at 9, and Ed Schultz at 10.

The article also talks about MSNBC’s finances, noting that its carriage fee and overall revenue lags far behind rivals CNN and Fox News.

“What’s motivating us now is: How do we close that entitlement gap?” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News.

Being owned by a cable company might help the channel’s fortune in that respect.

Then there is Matthews, who seems optimistic about his new corporate bosses:

“We are now working for a company that’s selling our content to the home,” said Matthews, an often-repeated view at NBC. “They can help us. Before, we were working for a company that manufactured aircraft engines and lightbulbs.”

That is not to say there is not some apprehension. “It’s very business-oriented,” Matthews later observed confidentially. “These guys, I understand, are very IBM-ish.”