In a surprisingly fast turnaround, MSNBC has shaken up their weekday programming to make room for Ed Schultz who was bumped to weekends just six months ago. MSNBC president Phil Griffin wrote this in a memo to his staff:
“This move will help us enhance the flow of our weeknight programming and concentrate Chris’ audience to one key time period. And this allows us to bring Ed’s powerful voice back to the Monday-Friday schedule. Ed connects with our viewers and I’m happy to have him back five nights a week.”
It’s true that Schultz has a unique labor-centric perspective that exists nowhere else on cable news. Consequently, he has a loyal fan base who will appreciate this expanded access to the issues he highlights. It would nice if he retools the program to dig deeper into the substance of current events and provide some of the original reporting that Hayes, Maddow, and O’Donnell do. And he really needs to ditch that useless cell phone survey.
However, the bigger news emanating from this shift is that Schultz will be occupying the 5:00pm time slot that is currently held by the first airing of Hardball with Chris Matthews. It is about time that the duplication of Hardball was terminated. Matthews will now appear only at 7:00pm, and that may be too much.
These moves, and others by competing networks, are setting up some interesting match-ups. Schultz will be going up against Fox’s The Five. Matthews, at 7:00, is already pitted against Shepard Smith’s second hour of the day, Fox Report. However, speculation that Megyn Kelly’s leap to primetime will replace Sean Hannity at 9:00 (where she will be opposite Rachel Maddow), also has Hannity moving to 7:00, where he would spar with Matthews.
Now, if MSNBC would hand over Al Sharpton’s show to Joy Reid and hire John Fugelsang to fill the gap Schultz is leaving on the weekend, we might have the makings of a real network. I would also suggest that Chris Hayes bring on a co-host. Hayes is whip-smart and knows how to present complex issues, but he is lacking in the personality department. His program would benefit from a little banter with someone like Stephanie Miller. Or for a truly inspired experiment, pick up the Daily Show’s John Oliver, who has some free time on his hands now that Jon Stewart is returning from hiatus.