MSNBC Moving Ed Schultz To The Weekend – Chris Hayes Gets His Spot In Primetime

On last night’s broadcast of the The Ed Show, Ed Schultz announced that he would be taking his program to a new weekend slot beginning in April. Thursday will be his last broadcast in primetime. His statement came at the end of the program and said in part…

Schultz: “I raised my hand for this assignment for a number of personal and professional reasons. My fight on ‘The Ed Show’ has been for the workers and the middle class. This new time slot will give me the opportunity to produce and focus on stories that I care about and are important to American families and American workers.”

His statement implies that the move was his choice. However, there are some conflicting accounts of this and a report in the New York Times last November speculated that Schultz’s time slot might be offered to MSNBC contributor and frequent fill-in host, Ezra Klein.

As it turns out, it will be Chris Hayes taking over Schultz’s time period. Hayes is editor-at-large for the highly respected Nation magazine and is currently a host of a weekend morning program on MSNBC, “UP with Chris Hayes.” His selection affirms the appeal he has generated on his show and as a guest host for Rachel Maddow and others.

While the change for Schultz appears to be a demotion from primetime to the weekend ghetto, the details of the move may suggest some benefits. His new show will air on both Saturday and Sunday from 5:00 to 7:00pm. This means that his new show will be twice as long as the old one. You can do a lot more in a two hour format if you’re creative with segments, field production, and guests. And he will end up having nearly as much weekly time as he had before the move.

Cable News RatingsSchultz’s ratings were growing at a steady pace, although he was no match for Fox’s number one program, The O’Reilly Factor. At the end of last year he posted a 54% gain compared to O’Reilly’s 22% decline. Then again in January he scored a plus 23% to O’Reilly’s minus 25%, as Fox sunk to a twelve year low.

Last year I proposed some programming changes for MSNBC that would assist them in taking advantage of their post-election ratings surge. One of those was to give Schultz the Hardball repeat at 7:00pm and find another host to put up against O’Reilly and anchor the primetime block. Hayes was a possibility at the time, but not my choice. He is a smart and engaging host, but not the sort of personality that could compete with O’Reilly. If MSNBC is interested in taking the leap from contender to champ they need to take some risks.

One possibility would have been to develop a non-conventional format with a team of hosts. My suggestion was John Fugelsang and Joy Reid. They could produce a show that incorporated serious policy discussion along with a sense of humor and a nod to popular culture. That might have been an effective way to counter-program Fox and set up the evening’s later programs with something lighter and more broadly appealing. Perhaps MSNBC will consider such a program to replace Hayes on weekend mornings where they may be more comfortable experimenting.

As with everything in the television business, time will tell. MSNBC has been enjoying substantial gains lately, while Fox News has been suffering severe losses. Whether these trends will continue long enough for the networks to swap places in the standings remains to be seen. And CNN isn’t standing still either with their new boss, Jeff Zucker, whose influence is already being felt in significant ways. The end result is that 2013 is bound to be a year wherein the cable news business suffers the ancient Chinese curse of “living in interesting times.”


6 thoughts on “MSNBC Moving Ed Schultz To The Weekend – Chris Hayes Gets His Spot In Primetime

  1. “Up With Chris Hates” — Freudian slip or fat fingers?

    You are way too kind to Ed Schultz. I particularly like how you soften the blow of his move to Saturday evenings by saying he’ll have just about as much time as he did on his weekday show. All it’s going to do is anger those addicted to “Locked Up Raw — Extended Stay”.

    As much as I dislike Ed Schultz, I have always felt he comes across as a regular guy with a sincere point of view with which a middle class person can identify. Chris Hayes, on the other hand, is a high brow elitist (the male version of Rachel Maddow). This may be too much for regular folks to handle in one evening on a regular basis. We’ll see.

    O’Reilly must be shaking in his boots.

    • First of all, I was neither mean nor kind to Schultz. I merely related some facts. I said that he will have nearly as much time after the move, and that’s simply the truth. I also noted that the move can be regarded as a demotion and I reiterated my prior advice that he be moved out of primetime. You have a peculiar definition of kindness.

      Secondly, it’s a bit insulting to “regular folks” to imply that they can’t handle another program in the Maddow vein. Especially when Maddow is the top ratings performer on MSNBC and often beats her competition on Fox. Apparently those regular folks are not inhibited by intelligence and charm. If the Hayes program is anything like Maddow’s in content and ratings performance it will be a big boost for the network.

  2. Mark, I just read, but already forgot where, that Ezra Klein will inherit Hayes’ old time slot. It sounds like a logical up-the-latter progression to me.

  3. I wish both Chris Hayes and Ed Schultz good fortune. My reference to your kindness to Ed Schultz is relative to the daggers you throw at even a misspelling on FOX.

    I’m not trying to insult anybody. I’m just saying that having two elitists in a row is more than most people can bear. Perhaps moving the Rev. Al between the two would make sense. He could cleanse the mental palate in preparation for Rachel.

  4. I tend to think this was of mutual benefit to all parties involved. His wife had a recent health issue, cancer I think, so this may address the “personal” aspect of this move. As a “regular guy”, I’ll still watch his show.

    And as a “regular guy”, I couldn’t be happier to have yet another intelligent anchor speaking truth to power. I haven’t missed too many of Rachel’s shows or Chris’ shows. I like Ezra Klein and Joy Reid as well. I can’t get enough of the smart commentary these people have to offer. I believe when you hear these types of people giving their brand of insightful reporting, you can’t help but wish for more. It’s addicting; but then facts have a way of doing that to you.

  5. Interesting times indeed. Thanks for the insights.

    When I’m home in the evenings I usually put MSNBC on as I go about my business … I love Rachel and find O’Donnell’s smirking arrogance entertaining. I do find that I often tune out Ed, though. I really like his passion and rabble-rousing talents, particularly on topics like labor unions and health care. But stylistically he sounds too much like an AM-radio shouter for my tastes, and his political analysis tends to be pretty run-of-the-mill. Hopefully a new format will allow him to experiment and focus on the things he’s really good at. It would be a shame to see him just fade away.

    And it’s great to see Chris Hayes moving up: his weekend show is just fantastic and I hope the new show will still allow for in-depth discussions. Man, I hope they give “UP” to Joy Reid (or open up another show for her). She’s great. I think it’s a really smart move for MSNBC to pull in so many smart, young, telegenic liberal personalities. A real contrast to the pinched, sour, dyspeptic & endlessly cranky atmosphere over at Fox, and, I think, reflective of the way the 2012 elections played out.

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