The NBCUniversal cable-news outlet, which has suffered significant ratings declines in recent years, said it would transition Farrow into a role as a special correspondent who will contribute to primetime specials and other programs rather than host his own show, while Reid will take on a national correspondent position. Both are expected to contribute to various parts of the network’s TV and digital operations. Thomas Roberts, who has been hosting an early-morning news program, will now anchor the network between 1 and 3 p.m.
The shifts come as MSNBC, which for several years has focused less on breaking news and more on issue-oriented programming, places a new emphasis on the former. MSNBC now intends to run news-oriented programming after 9 a.m. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski will anchor Roberts’ early-morning slot until a permanent replacement is named.
The network could be borrowing a page from CNN, which under Jeff Zucker has used daytime to drill down on select breaking-news events like plane crashes, troubled cruise ships and race riots and found its ratings on the upswing as a result. CNN has trumped MSNBC in the ratings for the last several months, with its “New Day” morning program winning more viewers in the advertiser-desired adults 25-54 demo than MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Under the new structure, Farrow and Reid will focus more on getting bigger stories from the field. Reid will serve as a regular contributor to MSNBC’s primetime shows, and will become the first dedicated reporter for NowThisNews, a distributor of videos via digital and social-media outlets like Vine and Instagram that is partially owned by NBCUniversal. Farrow will continue to work with the NBC News investigative unit for certain stories, contribute interviews with newsmakers and celebrities to the network’s primetime lineup and provide reporting from remote locations for other programs.
MSNBC has been laying the groundwork for Farrow’s new role. In an interview last month with Variety, Farrow said he was eager to focus on traveling to places where big stories were erupting and finding angles and topics that were not getting much attention. ““It’s about diving in deep,” he said, noting that he hoped to seek “the human piece to tell the bigger story and push forward the narrative.”
The network appears to be stocking its ranks of contributors. MSNBC has enlisted a host of new personalities, including Janet Mock and Josh Barro, to staff its new Shift video-streaming hub. These digital staffers are also appearing on the flagship cable outlet. MSNBC on Wednesday named chief Tom Colicchio as its first food correspondent, and said he would host a show on Shift while also contributing across its daytime and primetime schedule.