MSNBC and Bloomberg said Monday that the NBCUniversal-owned cable-news outlet will add a politics-themed program from Bloomberg Television to its early evening lineup, marking a non-traditional agreement and the latest effort by MSNBC to change its daytime schedule in an attempt to woo more viewers to its programming.
“With All Due Respect,” a political-news program featuring journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, will continue to run on the Bloomberg cable network, which is focused primarily on business news, but will in January start to air on MSNBC at 6 p.m. on weeknights. The program will air first on Bloomberg one hour earlier.
At MSNBC, the 6 p.m. hour has in recent weeks been devoted to reports of breaking news, but it is sandwiched between two programs that delve more deeply into politics – “MTP Daily” with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd at 5 p.m., and Chris Matthews’ hour at 7 p.m. The hour had previously featured Al Sharpton, but he was moved to Sundays as part of broader restructuring efforts NBCUniversal has put in place at the cable-news network, which has suffered ratings losses.
For Bloomberg, the agreement offers a chance for its program to make a bigger splash. The business-news outlet’s TV network has long not issued Nielsen ratings data, suggesting its audience is relatively small and static. An MSNBC run would help Bloomberg, perhaps, amortize the cost of the two journalists who sit at its helm. The company was said to have invested a significant amount in their hire as part of a move to broaden its reach among consumers.
The arrangement between Bloomberg and MSNBC is an unorthodox one. MSNBC is clearly betting that its core base of viewers does not watch Bloomberg and that Bloomberg’s airing of the program will not spoil a re-air of the same program on MSNBC the same evening. The pact is a testament to the continued fragmentation of the overall TV audience, which has begun to watch more video content in time-shifted fashion, meaning that a show that has already aired during the day on one network may still be fresh enough for another round on a separate outlet.
The maneuver is likely to raise eyebrows within NBC News and MSNBC. Why would a company that employs hundreds of newsgathering operatives look outside its walls to fill a time slot on a cable-news network that is supposed to burnish the abilities of the company’s news unit? Since the arrival of Andrew Lack as the new supervisor of both NBC News and MSNBC, the cable outlet has been reworked to seem less like an outlet for progressive views on the news of the day and more of a sister to NBC News operations that produce “Today,” “NBC Nightly News,” “Meet The Press” and “Dateline.”
Heilemann and Halperin jumped aboard Bloomberg in 2014, part of a move to give the company heft in broader “verticals” of content that might be relevant to consumers that exist beyond the business-savvy crowd that subscribers to its popular data terminals. The pair has written two well-known and gossipy books about political campaigns, “Game Change” and “Double Down,” and have contributed to MSNBC programs like “Morning Joe.”
[Updated, 4:30 AM PT, 12/7]