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Ratings-Challenged MSNBC Scores Coup With Hillary Clinton Interview

Hillary Clinton will give a sit-down interview to veteran NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell this Friday on MSNBC, in a coup for a cable-news network working to transform itself to generate bigger ratings.

Clinton, the front-runner among Democrats vying for the office of U.S. president in the 2016 race, will sit down with Mitchell for a talk that will be televised first during the Friday edition of the reporter’s 12 p.m. Eastern program “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC. Portions of the conversation will subsequently appear on “NBC Nightly News,” the weekend version of “Today,” “Meet the Press” and NBCNews.com.

Mitchell is expected to ask the former secretary of state about her presidential campaign, the field of Republican competitors, the controversy currently raging over the way she handled her email while in office at the State Department and the 20th anniversary of her September 5, 1995, speech on women’s rights delivered in Beijing.

The talk, Clinton’s first since speaking with CNN’s Brianna Keilar in July, is a good “get” for Mitchell, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, but could also serve to advance a new business strategy in place at the cable network. Once seen as distinct from NBC’s news unit — MSNBC fashioned itself as a place for viewing the news through a progressive lens, while NBC News held tighter to objectivity — the cable-news operation and NBC News are being placed in the same tether under new management.

Under Andrew Lack, given oversight of both NBC News and MSNBC in April, the cable network is undergoing a not-so-subtle makeover. Shows featuring hosts like Ed Schultz and the Reverend Al Sharpton are being jettisoned or having their on-air presence cut back. Daytime programming is focused more closely on breaking news of the day, even hour.

MSNBC’s ratings, which surged along with the popularity of progressive primetime hosts like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, have drifted in recent years as the network took what worked in primetime and tried to layer it across the schedule with programs like “The Cycle.”

Mitchell, who has anchored an early-afternoon hour on MSNBC for years, is one of the few constants on the network’s daytime grid. As such, she may be emblematic of the new corporate plan, which will center the cable outlet around breaking news and make it more of a piece with NBC’s main news operations. Later this month, Brian Williams is expected to join MSNBC as an anchor for live coverage of important breaking-news events.

 

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