Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz told viewers that he had “raised his hand” to volunteer for a move from the 8 p.m. weeknight slot to weekends from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., making room for Chris Hayes’s move to prime time. A belch of skepticism has gurgled up from the media-crit world, with few taking at face value that Schultz departed from the forefront of cable news of his own free will.
When apprised of the scant buy-in, MSNBC President Phil Griffin was ready: “Have you been around for the last 100 years?” he asked. “People can talk, they can say what they want. I don’t care,” he said. The MSNBC boss had been thinking about enhancing weekend programming for a year, he says. “So when he came to me, everything fell into place.” Schultz’s new slot, says Griffin, allows the network to charge into a “growth area for us….This network’s about depth and taking on topics and going deep into them,” he says.
When asked about “The Ed Show”‘s ratings struggles with younger folks, Griffin responded, “We were up, we had one of our best years. We were up year over year. This is a very competitive time in all the time slots,” he said.
Hayes has fashioned a program — “Up With Chris Hayes” — that chooses big themes and moves in relaxed, in-depth fashion through various subtopics. Perhaps that’s a luxury enabled by weekends, when the news slows down just a touch. Weeknight cable TV, of course, tends toward a more raucous common denominator, not that Griffin buys that premise or its implications. “This notion of raucous — where does that exist? It’s left over from 1998, during ‘Crossfire,'” he says. “Will the media wake up?” What he terms “smart” programming will work not only in the future, “I think the smart thing works now; it works on Rachel [Maddow’s show], it works on Lawrence [O’Donnell’s show], it works on ‘Morning Joe,'” he argues.