Ed Schultz returning to MSNBC five days a week
At a time when a critical “war” is now going on between cable news networks, MSNBC is now moving Ed Schultz back to Monday through Friday shows — the 5 pm EST slot currently occupied by the first of two hours of Hardball. It shows there are indeed third acts in American life.
Five months ago, Schultz had been moved from his 8 p.m. EST slot and given an hour weekend show twice a week to make way for All In With Chris Hayes. There was one problem: MSNBC’s viewers weren’t all in, and the timeslot took a big ratings hit. This is the first of many shifts for Schultz, who seems to be the quintessential corporate team player — and someone who has evolved. He started as a more conservative radio talk show host, then morphed into a more center-left national talker, — not one associated with Air American and, in fact, a talker marketed nationally by some of the same people who had launched Rush Limbaugh. He turned harder to the left while on MSNBC. He had started build ratings for the station, but was moved to make way for the younger and “cooler” Hayes — a Baby Boomer opening up a spot for the younger generation.
Schultz’s move was widely seen as a “demotion,” even though Schultz insisted there were other reasons on his end for the move. He did his weekend shows with a passion and never let up on his lively weekday radio show. This seems a case of how persistence — and perceptible passion — can pay off.
Ed Schultz will move back to weekdays in the 5 p.m. slot beginning Aug. 26, the network is set to announce on Monday. The move comes less than five months after The Ed Show moved from 8 p.m. Monday-Friday to 5-7 p.m. on weekends. That announcement last March was preceded by months of media speculation that Schultz was losing the lead-off slot in MSNBC’s prime-time lineup. Schultz made the announcement on his show, saying there were “a number of personal and professional reasons” for the move to weekends.
“Ed has proven himself no matter where we’ve put him,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told The Hollywood Reporter.
The latest schedule shift displaces the first airing of Hardball with Chris Matthews; currently Matthews’ show airs at 5 p.m. with a repeat at 7 p.m. Beginning Aug. 26, Hardball will have one run at 7 p.m. Hardball’s 7 p.m. show traditionally gets higher ratings than the 5 p.m. premiere. And Griffin expects those numbers to improve after the move. The move makes MSNBC’s primetime lineup all new for the first time since the network’s shift to a political focus. “We’ve grown a lot in the last decade,” said Griffin, adding that Schultz “laughed a little” when he called to ask him to move back to weeknights.
The move, added Griffin, “makes us whole in early prime. Obviously we had to make sure we had the right show. The Ed Show is the right show.”
The Hollywood Reporter also notes that this “comes as MSNBC is battling ratings declines in July and its worst second quarter finish in primetime since 2009.”
In other words: it’s “all hands on deck” for MSNBC as the cable network continues its march towards branding itself as the liberal anti-Fox News — and faces the challenge starting tomorrow of Al Jazeera America which will use the more serious-journalism BBC model — Schultz is a reliable warrior.