Politics Save the Day at MSNBC

Rumors had swirled that the news channel would go to all taped programming, and shift personalities like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann to CNBC. But encouraging numbers during the midterms — the channel actually beat Fox News in the 25-54 demo for a few hours on the day after the election — has convinced the network to adopt an all politics, all the time format. At least for now.

Reports Variety’s Michael Learmonth, “Like the voters, the viewers sent a message, and NBC brass are listening. Network is trying to keep the story going by asking NBC talent, and some of MSNBC’s primetime brand names to work the political angles during the day.”

“I’m a big believer that Fox had a very strong window that started during the Clinton years and ended when (President) Bush landed on that boat that said ‘mission accomplished,’ ” says NBC News senior VP Phil Griffin. “The mood has changed and people are looking for a different kind of coverage.”

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post says that the big test may have been last week, when MSNBC resisted tabloid temptation and provided only sparing coverage of the O.J. Simpson “if I did it” controversy.

Meanwhile, Fox News will try out “24” executive producer Joel Surnow’s “This Just In,” described as a conservative alternative to “The Daily Show.” As reported here at W&W last week, the Fox network rejected the pilot and he was taking it to Roger Ailes. The pilot opens with a skit featuring Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, both playing themselves, in the White House. It drew loud cheers at the recent Liberty Film Festival in West Hollywood.

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