New MSNBC talker for Norville

Anchor nabs 9 p.m. slot, stays on 'Inside'

Deborah Norville has signed up to host a talkshow on MSNBC every weeknight at 9 — marking her return to the Peacock.

Back in 1989, the widespread perception was that the young and beautiful Norville engineered the ouster of the older, venerated Jane Pauley, replacing her as co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” show and harvesting reams of bad publicity in the process. (Norville herself lasted in the co-anchor slot of “Today” for only 18 months, succeeded by Katie Couric.)

A spokesman for MSNBC declined comment, but word is the network will make a formal announcement of Norville’s hiring early next week.

But fully cognizant of the subpar ratings at MSNBC, Norville’s not giving up her day job. She’ll continue to anchor King World’s weekday, half-hour magazine “Inside Edition.” She started on the syndie in March 1995, and her contract with King World runs through 2004-05. Her job on “Inside” largely consists of introducing the various segments, although she occasionally goes on location to report one of the stories.

The 9 p.m. slot on MSNBC opened up earlier this month when the network moved “The Abrams Report” from 9 to 6 p.m., forcing the cancellation of the left wing vs. right wing banter of “Buchanan & Press,” featuring Pat Buchanan and Bill Press.

MSNBC is counting on Norville to help it reverse a Nielsen slide in the fourth quarter that has seen the net’s total-viewers number plunge by 27% in primetime, dropping by 28% in the all-important adults 25-54 demographic, compared to the same period last year.

The network’s two main all-news competitors, Fox News Channel and CNN, have also surrendered some viewers quarter to quarter, but at a slower rate than MSNBC. The number of Fox News’ total viewers fell by only 4% in the third quarter, and by only 17% in adults 25-54. Similarly, CNN lost only 10% of its total primetime viewers, and 8% in 25-54.

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