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MSNBC’s Re-Do Will Make it Look More Like NBC News Channel

When MSNBC viewers tune in to the network next week during daytime hours, they might not be faulted for thinking they’re watching a longer “special report” from NBC News.

On camera will be veterans like Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd and Kate Snow, just named anchor of the Sunday edition of “NBC Nightly News.” Behind the scenes: Pat Burkey, who has been executive producer of the weekday edition of  “Nightly” for the past four years, will take over leadership of MSNBC’s afternoon coverage. And Izzy Povich, who like Burkey, was working at MSNBC when it launched in 1996 and was focused more on breaking-news coverage and less on a progressive take on the stories of the moment, will move to run morning coverage. Mark Lukasiewicz, a senior vice president of specials at NBC News, was named to coordinate coverage between NBC and MSNBC during big, breaking news events.

You might call it a “back to the future” maneuver. MSNBC made great ratings strides last decade when it began tackling issues through a liberal political lens. Keith Olbermann served as the primetime face of the network, which also boasted Chris Matthews, and then Rachel Maddow. Soon, however, the success in late afternoon and primetime prompted executives to extend the theme to daytime shows. Soon, Reverend Al Sharpton was holding forth in late afternoons and Ronan Farrow anchored an hour in an earlier part of the day. The network eventually began to cede viewership when big breaking news erupted and rivals began to gain. MSNBC lost 8% of its primetime viewership in 2014, according to Pew Research Center, and 18% of its daytime audience.

Since the arrival of Andrew Lack as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC in June, the strategy that has been articulated is one of bringing two parts of the newsgathering operations of parent NBCUniversal together. In the past, that might not have been so easily accomplished. NBC News has been castigated in the press for presenting political coverage that included color commentary from Matthews and Olbermann. And there has long been talk among staffers in 30 Rockefeller Center, longtime home to NBC, that some executives from NBC News and MSNBC were so at odds that they could not even come together to share an elevator.

To be sure, the opinionated programming will continue at the network in primetime, MSNBC President Phil Griffin emphasized in a memo release to staffers Thursday.  And MSNBC is mulling a possible extension of “Morning Joe,” according to a person familiar with the situation. The show is based on spirited discussion of the news by anchors Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist and others, and looks to remain a foundation element at MSNBC, owing, perhaps, to the audience of “influentials” it collects each day.  Jose Diaz-Balart,a popular anchor who also has history broadcasting with NBCU-owned Telemundo, is expected to continue in the mornings on MSNBC, this person said.

But elsewhere on the schedule, anchors will deliver the news, not their take on it.

Todd will anchor a program called “MTP Daily” – an obvious allusion to “Meet The Press” – while Snow will anchor two hours each weekday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., a move that will put her against the popular Brooke Baldwin and the politically-minded Jake Tapper on CNN and veterans Shepard Smith and Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel. Gone are “The Ed Show,” anchored by populist anchor Ed Schultz. Sharpton has been relegated to a once-a-week roost on Sundays.

More tweaks may be on the way. “We’ll have more to share soon about some additional assignments,” Griffin said in the memo. Whatever the changes, the company looks like it wants to dig up the cable-network’s roosts and downplay some of its more recent offshoots.

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