In one of the biggest shake-ups in cable news since the Chris Cuomo/Jeff Zucker scandal, Rachel Maddow returned to her MSNBC show last night, marking the end of a weeks-long hiatus.
However, the return appears to be short-lived. Maddow announced on her show that she will soon be a weekly host, appearing just on Monday nights.
Starting in May, Maddow will scale back her duties at MSNBC, moving from what had been a five-days-per-week role to hosting only on Mondays, as she revealed to viewers this evening. She is changing her schedule after signing a new pact with NBCUniversal that gives her aegis over a broader range of projects, including podcasts and films.
”I do still have all these other irons in the fire, all these other things I’m working on that I want to bring to fruition, none of them are fast, all of them take a long time, and I’m still working on all of them,” Maddow said on her MSNBC program Monday evening. She delivered her remarks after returning from a weeks-long hiatus that let her deal with some of those new content initiatives.
The Rachel Maddow Show is the most successful program on MSNBC, garnering the most viewers on the network total and among the 25-54 demographic according to last week’s ratings. She has consistently been the top-performing anchor on the network, including the weeks she was on hiatus.
Years ago, MSNBC made the noticeable shift from more blue-collar style Democrats leading the network (Ed Shultz and Chris Matthews) to the more academic anchors, with Maddow spearheading the effort and becoming the face of the network. Her influence gave Chris Hayes a platform and initially led to Ronan Farrow’s brief stint on the network (though his show was short-lived, his career as a journalist has continued on to make his one of the most feared names in the industry among Hollywood elites).
Maddow appears to be poised to become the entire brand manager of the network. Podcasts, films, and the like will be part of her increasing portfolio, but this also means that MSNBC will have a short-term problem in how to replace her. She is the network’s draw, and with her formally announcing she won’t be back full-time, the network has to find some sort of journalistic star power to replace her. The options, though, are scarce.
You could move Chris Hayes into that spot, but that just opens up his current time slot, which runs second place behind Maddow. If that were the case (and it could be), they would need to replace him with someone viable. And, given the network’s partisan lean, it’s not clear that Hayes would be a natural choice. Like the Biden administration narrowing their scope of potential Supreme Court Justices to a black woman, the executives at MSNBC could be looking at finding a woman (and possibly a woman of color) to replace her.
Replacing Maddow’s spot is a big job, too. Her style was that of a highly charged partisan combined with an academic. Her monologues were dissertations, even if they sometimes bordered on the conspiratorial, and her ability to hold her audience through the whole thing was objectively impressive. As the Variety piece notes, even Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have admitted they are impressed with her style, even if the politics she espouses are wrong.
MSNBC seems like they will (for now) continue rotating guest hosts in that spot until a permanent decision is made. But they don’t have a clear successor, and if they want to hold on to her audience, they’ll need to find one.
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