Some familiar visages for cabler's new face
On July 15, MSNBC brings its revamped roster of feisty old cats to the frisky business of cable news.TV legend (and major paw-waver) Phil Donahue will take the 8 p.m. slot, vying against Fox News’ frontrunner Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s recently installed Connie Chung. Scrappy TV vet Jerry Nachman (also the cabler’s editor-in-chief) will have his own gabber at 7 p.m. “Hardball” anchor Chris Matthews moves to 9 p.m., followed by Ashleigh Banfield. Daytime schedule includes former CNN stalwarts Bill Press and Pat Buchanan. So now that the deep-third-place cable news net has reinvented itself (a wag calls the latest incarnation MSNBC 4.0), the question is whether the so-called “fiercely independent” brand will stick. “It has become like radio on TV,” says Kathryn Thomas, associate director of entertainment at media-buying agency Starcom. “They’ve embraced the format, refined it and started the promotion train.” One TV exec likened the gab-heavy format to “America’s Talking,” an ill-fated effort in the ’80s to launch a news gabber. (helmed by Roger Ailes, now head of Fox News). But Nachman doesn’t agree with the comparison. “You’ll have to do some homework,” he says. ” ‘America’s Talking’ was about relationships and impotence.” Nachman says his news cabler has a staff waiting for news to break. “We’re like the R.A.F., getting ready to pounce,” he says.