If it’s good wi-fi, it’s “Meet The Press.”
Chuck Todd, who has moderated NBC News’ Sunday-morning public affairs program since the fall of 2014, and worked a weekday version of the show on MSNBC since 2015, will now expand the series to streaming video. With the maneuver, NBC News is taking a new swing at breaking down walls in the TV business that have kept the best-known news anchors from taking on more duties in the industry’s newest spaces.
Starting in September, Todd will launch a weekly political program on both live-streaming outlet NBC News Now as well as NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming-video hub, just in time to dovetail with what is likely to be rising interest in the 2020 presidential election. Todd will also start anchoring pre- and post-event programming around big political-news nights, starting with the Democratic and Republican conventions later this month, and, in coming weeks, around debates and Election Night. NBC News plans to create an additional production team for the anchor’s streaming initiatives.
As part of the move, MSNBC will overhaul its afternoon lineup. Nicolle Wallace’s 4 p.m. “Deadline: White House” will expand to two hours, taking over space previously held by Todd’s “MTP Daily,” which moves to 1 p.m. Wallace’s program has become a favorite of executives at the network, who have worked to bring a host with a Republican or center-right background into its programming mix. Efforts to expand Wallace’s afternoon presence have been under consideration for some time.
Under the new framework, “MTP Daily” will be is paired with a noontime program led by Andrea Mitchell that is focused largely on Washington and national affairs. Katy Tur’s 2 p.m. hour remains intact. Ayman Mohyeldin, a foreign correspondent who has recently co-anchored an early-morning show on MSNBC at 5 a.m., will move to 3 p.m. Wallace’s show, focused on analysis, will be used to gather audiences for MSNBC’s early-evening and primetime programming. She will vie more directly with rivals like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Fox News Channel’s “The Five.”
The moves are driven by business dynamics both new and old. Every media company is placing new emphasis on reaching viewers by streaming video, but none can ignore the cash that continues to be thrown off by traditional TV efforts.
Both NBC News Now and Peacock have taken on new importance as viewers migrate away from the big screen in the living room to mobile tablets and phones. At the same time, MSNBC’s daytime schedule is not beating its rivals in a critical metric. MSNBC may win more viewers overall than CNN. But CNN’s daytime offerings typically win more of the viewers that are essential to the economics of TV – people between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. Both networks are usually trumped in the category by Fox News Channel.
MSNBC’s 2020 ad revenue is seen falling to $672.4 million from $728.9 million in the previous year, according to market-research firm Kagan, part of S&P Global Marketing Intelligence. The network is seen capturing more advertising than CNN this year – $619.2 million – but less than Fox News Channel, which is predicted to take in more than $1.16 billion.
The migration of consumers to on-demand video continues unabated, but few mainstream TV-news outlets have thrown their best-known personnel at it in broad fashion. Fox News Channel streams a “Fox & Friends” after-show on the subscription-video hub Fox Nation, where some of its prime time hosts also make separate appearances, and CNN previously dispatched Anderson Cooper to host a Facebook program, “Full Circle,” before moving the program to its own site. For the most part, however, the TV’s most prominent anchors have stuck to their home medium.
No anchor from “CBS This Morning” or “CBS Evening News” leads a separate program on video-streaming outlet CBSN, and ABC News’ ABC News Live does not feature Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos or David Muir in bespoke fashion. MSNBC executives have long fretted that making hosts like Rachel Maddow or Joe Scarborough available via digital venues might undermine the flow of programming fees the network secures from cable and satellite distributors.
The TV-news outlets “have been holding back their top talent from streaming platforms because they’re still more financially and emotionally invested in what’s worked before rather than what’s on the horizon. That’s true not just for executives but also for the stars themselves.” says Mark Feldstein, chairman of the broadcast journalism department at the University of Maryland. “The fundamental question for these media companies is figuring out how long they want to milk the tried and true but now declining old model before taking the plunge into the uncharted new waters ahead.”
There are new signals the networks are starting to break down silos. ABC News put a senior producer from its live-streaming service at the helm of its extension of “Good Morning America” on the network, which has become a hard-news hour anchored by Amy Robach. NBC News recently launched a 24/7 stream of segments from “Today” that includes several digital series featuring the show’s panoply of anchors. Lester Holt has been hosting a “Kids Edition” of “NBC Nightly News” that appears on YouTube.
During Todd’s tenure, “Meet The Press” – one of TV’s longest-running programs – has begun to encompass several products not tied to linear-TV watching. The show now curates a documentary film festival, and recently tested a streaming-video “college edition” of the program. He also hosts a daily and weekly podcast under the show’s rubric, and publishes a daily morning newsletter. A new podcast is in the offing: Todd and the “Meet the Press” production team will host the series “Florida, Florida, Florida,” that looks into the Florida recount in the Bush vs. Gore presidential election of 2000.
“We are no longer in the business of telling people how they should consume information,” Todd told Variety in 2017. “Our job is to provide depth and information in any way they want to consume it.”