“Morning Joe” has a new quarterback.
MSNBC has named Michael Weisman, a storied sports producer, as the new executive in charge of its morning program. The hire comes as the show has ceded ground to CNN’s “New Day,”which has trumped “Joe” in the ratings for several months.
Weisman has a long tenure supervising live events and sports broadcasts, having led broadcasts of the Olympics, the World Series, the Super Bowl, NBC’s “Football Night in America,” and even Jane Pauley’s syndicated talk program in 2004 and Pat Sajak’s late-night CBS talk show in 1989 and 1990. He has received 24 Emmys over the years for work done at both NBC and Fox.
Weisman takes the reins of the program at an interesting time. MSNBC is in the midst of remaking its daytime lineup, attempting to make news the focus rather than the issues-driven programming that has become its norm. Last week, the network said it would put daytime hosts Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid in roving-correspondent roles and set early-morning anchor Thomas Roberts in their place in the early afternoon. “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezkinski are to host Roberts early-morning slot until a new host is named.
“Morning Joe” is one of MSNBC’s most valuable programs. The hosts don’t report the news, but rather analyze it, often in longer segments than one sees on competing programs. While the show doesn’t capture the viewership of, say, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” its higher-level discussion caters to policymakers and politicians, and the program has appeal among Washington, D.C., audiences and high-income viewers.
CNN has been making a grab for its crowd. Last month, CNN ran an ad in the New York Times directly addressing Scarborough. “Sorry Joe,” the ad’s copy trumpeted in bright red letters. “While you were leaning forward, we were moving ahead,” a direct reference to MSNBC’s progressive “Lean Forward” positioning. The ad detailed how “New Day” beat “Morning Joe” for four consecutive months in snaring the most viewers and for the seventh consecutive month in capturing viewers between 25 and 54 – the demographic most favored by advertisers in news programming.
Alex Korson, executive producer of “Morning Joe,” will continue his role with the program.
Weisman, who got his start as an NBC page in 1981, has over the years demonstrated a facility with live programming and taking gambles. Weisman helped NBC Sports’ Bob Costas get a foothold in the business by putting him on NBC’s NFL pre-game show in 1984. “Throwing me into ‘NFL ’84’ with little experience was another riverboat-gambler move on his part,” Costas told the Washington Post in 1986. Weisman was among the first to have baseball players introduce their teams’ lineups in an attempt to personalize the game. He was early to put microphones on coaches and officials and use new camera angles.
All of which might prove interesting on “Morning Joe.” MSNBC president Phil Griffin has made noise about getting his anchors out into the field more often, an effort that would make the network’s reporting seem more immediate. In recent weeks, “Joe” has also put more of a focus on co-host Brzezinski, setting her up in the program’s last half hour to host a panel focused on issues relevant to women. In a recent interview with Variety, Brzezinski said Scarborough came up with the initial idea.