What Do You Do with a Broken Channel?

Fixing MCNBC’s disastrous ratings slide — down in primetime 50% in the key 25-to-54 demo — isn’t going to be easy:

Phil Griffin, MSNBC president, has lately sought to broaden MSNBC’s outlook by taking on a greater variety of stories, even hiring a food correspondent, and there’s been some uptick in the ratings the past few weeks. He changed the daytime lineup, ditching opinionated programs hosted by Ronan Farrow and Joy-Ann Reid and establishing a news-focused bloc with Jose Diaz-Balart, Andrea Mitchell and Thomas Roberts.

Griffin has run MSNBC since 2006. Normally, executives at networks with his ratings are looking for another job, especially with a new boss coming in. But he and Lack have a long relationship, and Griffin has credited Lack with kick-starting his career by assigning him to supervise NBC News coverage of the O.J. Simpson case.

The shift in focus during the day has led some fans to fear MSNBC may abandon its liberal focus altogether.


The first point of interest isn’t the dancing schadenfreude this story makes you feel. Instead, it’s that this barely-seen network will still generate $509 million in revenue this year — thanks to cable bundling. If it weren’t for that monopolistic practice, it’s difficult to see how MSNBC could stay on the air. Is that a great argument for unbundling or cutting the cord, or what?

The second item is the more important one: Where does MSNBC go from here? With its tiny and shrinking audience, the network can’t continue to sell itself as the “counterbalance to Fox News.” MSNBC doesn’t have the resources to even pretend to match CNN’s news gathering reach. And as the record shows, even when Big Bad Bush was invading the Middle East all willy-nilly, there just isn’t that big an audience for screeching & preaching progressives.

And eventually, that sweet bundling deal will come up for renegotiation. Absent a turnaround, any new deal will likely be… less sweet for MSNBC.


Looks like the bloodletting there may have only begun.


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