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NBCUniversal’s NBC News and sister network MSNBC have suffered various ratings issues as it prepares for its biggest star to take on a reduced workload that is expected to further erode viewership, prompting an insider to wonder where is the responsibility of the media conglomerate.
Rachel Maddow returned this week after a two-month hiatus which saw her show struggle as replacement hosts failed to maintain her audience, only to announce that she would soon be reducing her on-air duties a once again.
The MSNBC cash cow, who reportedly earns $30 million a year, told viewers she would only host ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ on Monday nights starting next month despite her huge salary. The other four nights of the week will go to a rotating cast of replacement hosts.
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Maddow’s announcement left fans disappointed and forced media critics to admit that MSNBC had a “problem” on its hands.
“MSNBC may find people to succeed Rachel Maddow, but it’s not yet clear the network can replace her,” Variety’s Brian Steinberg wrote.
Even far-left “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert expressed disappointment with Maddow’s new schedule. “Rachel you are breaking the hearts of your fans, please don’t leave us with Lawrence O’Donnell,” he joked on Tuesday.
NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde, who started the gig in May 2020, is the high-level executive who paid Maddow and oversees NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. He was previously chairman of Telemundo and was expected to add stability to NBCUniversal’s news assets after his predecessor Andy Lack was caught up in a long list of controversies, including a public feud with Ronan. Farrow on the network’s handling of its Harvey Weinstein reporting.
Conde managed to avoid the outrageous, legacy-tarnishing headlines that plagued Lack, but he found his own set of problems along the way.
“Cesar Conde should be fired for Maddow’s embarrassing one deal, where she’s paid eight figures to barely work as MSNBC ratings plummet. Today’s Show Ratings” “are also catastrophic, the worst in its history,” said a former high-profile NBC News employee. who knows the inner workings of the company told Fox News Digital.
NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During the first quarter of 2022, MSNBC hemorrhaged an alarming chunk of its viewership compared to the first quarter of last year, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creating a historic news cycle. MSNBC averaged 712,000 viewers, losing 48% of its audience from a year ago.
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MSNBC also lost 60% of its audience among the major news demographics of adults aged 25-54, averaging just 87,000 compared to 217,000 last year.
Perhaps the most alarming evidence of the struggles under Condé is MSNBC’s problem drawing viewers into the category that pays the bills since President Biden took office. MSNBC has floundered in the key demo since Biden’s inauguration, averaging just 107,000 viewers to finish behind networks including MTV, Nickelodeon, A&E, TV Land, Hallmark, Food Network, Adult Swim and Investigation Discovery.
It’s not much better in prime time, as MSNBC has averaged 184,000 demo viewers since January 20, 2021, to finish behind a variety of networks such as FX, TLC and Bravo, although Maddow has in worked most of this period.
Puck’s Dylan Byers, a former NBC reporter, questioned the state of MSNBC in a scathing piece that questioned whether the cable network was on “autopilot” as it struggled for relevance.
“What is MSNBC’s new value proposition in the post-Trump era? The network’s tagline is ‘This is who we are,’ whatever that means, and yet, who MSNBC is is not at all clear, or even to whom it is addressed. In the morning it is a [Joe] Scarborough-run, personality-driven political insider breakfast club. By day, it’s basically NBC News. At night, it’s a handful of well-meaning, self-righteous college liberals who go to the AOC wing of the Democratic Party,” Byers wrote.
But MSNBC isn’t the only NBC asset with struggling ratings and a declining role in the media zeitgeist.
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NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” averaged 7.3 million viewers this year to trail 19% of the late-night audience of 8.7 million people who listen to ABC’s “World News Tonight.” NBC’s evening news also trailed ABC’s bid by 20% among advertisers’ coveted demo.
NBC News’ flagship “Today” struggled in 2022 compared to rival “Good Morning America” on ABC. “Today” averaged 3.1 million total viewers this year, compared to 3.4 million for ABC’s morning show, to trail “GMA” by 8% despite NBC broadcasting the Olympics in winter in February.
Last week, “GMA” had its biggest weekly viewership lead over NBC’s “Today” since February 2017, according to TVNewser. “Today” still manages to consistently top “GMA” among major demographics, but has lost 14% viewership in the critical category compared to last year.
“There’s nothing but failure at the NBCU News Group, but Cesar is allowed to spend his time on the boards of Walmart and Pepsi as he prepares his resume for bigger work” , said the former NBC News employee.
Indeed, Condé sits on the boards of two of America’s largest corporations. He even had to recuse himself from weighing in on stories involving the two companies.
“Unprecedented for an information officer,” the former staffer added.
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NBC continued to run favorable stories about the two companies, including an April 7 online story titled “Walmart to Offer New Truck Drivers $95,000 to $110,000 a Year to Fight Shortage” which focuses on the average long-haul driver making around $56,000 a year while Walmart offers “almost double that”. On Tuesday, NBC’s “Today” released a rave review of Pepsi’s latest product, a maple syrup-flavored soda to coincide with an IHOP partnership.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s supposed career move to MSNBC has angered NBC News reporters who don’t feel comfortable covering a future colleague. But a network insider told Fox News Digital that whoever leaked the alleged infighting just wants people to think NBC News is a nonpartisan operation, and opposing Psaki’s potential job is a convenient way. to get this message across.
NBC News was recently accused of repeating White House talking points, had its medical correspondent praise reinstated mask mandates and was called to appear to manipulate a photo of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas from the University of Pennsylvania.
NBCUniversal portrays NBC News as a straightforward news outlet, while MSNBC is openly progressive and full of left-leaning opinion leaders. But several personalities like Chuck Todd and Stephanie Ruhle regularly appear on both channels.
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All benchmark data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research.
Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News contributed to this report.