MSNBC Expands Weekend Programming; Kasie Hunt Revives ‘Way Too Early’ on Weekdays

MSNBC - MARKETING -- Pictured: Joshua Johnson -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/MSNBC)
Virginia Sherwood/MSNBC

MSNBC’s weekend viewers can bid farewell to many prime-time repeats of Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable-news outlet will on September 19 launch two new programs for weekend evenings, and add another anchor to its weekend afternoon coverage. Alicia Menendez, who joined the network in late 2019, will debut “American Voices” on Saturdays and Sundays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. eastern, while Joshua Johnson (pictured, above) who joined MSNBC earlier this year, will premiere “The Week” between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekend evenings. Kasie Hunt, whose “Kasie DC” offered viewers a Washington perspective on Sunday evenings, will re-launch “Way Too Early,” an MSNBC early-morning offering for weekdays that was originally started under Willie Geist in 2009.

The moves are part of a longstanding bid by MSNBC to provide live coverage on Saturdays and Sundays after relying for years on documentary programming and endless re-airs of the life-in-jail series “Lockup” (that program’s heavy presence on weekends was so ensconced in the network’s schedule that Rachel Maddow on her Friday broadcasts would often sign off to “the warden” who narrated “Lockdown’s” opening moments). While MSNBC’s ratings have soared during the Trump presidency, its weekend programming often loses to CNN’s in the critical category of viewers between 25 and 54 – the audience most desired by the advertisers that support news programs. In August, CNN had more viewers in that category in each weekend hour than MSNBC did.

The shifts may also reflect a desire by MSNBC executives to compete  more aggressively in the early morning slot during the week. More Americans are rising earlier and looking for news before 6 a.m. That has prompted Fox News Channel to place more emphasis on “Fox & Friends First” and CNN to combine veteran Christine Romans with up-and-comer Laura Jarrett on “Early Start.” 

As part of the moves, Yasmin Vossoughian will host two hours of “MSNBC Live,” on Saturdays and Sundays between 3 p.m and 5 p.m. She has been anchoring “Morning Joe: First Look,” the program that currently sits in the slot that will house “Way Too Early.”

A rotating group of anchors will continue to host MSNBC’s “A.M. Joy” on weekends between 10 a.m. and noon on weekends. A replacement for the show’s previous host, Joy Reid, is expected to be named in the fall.

Before joining MSNBC, Menendez was a correspondent on “Amanpour & Company” on PBS and hosted a news and culture program on Fusion called “Alicia Menendez Tonight,” She has anchored weekend programs at MSNBC and filled in for Nicolle Wallace on “Deadline: White House.” Her new show is expected to focus on the week’s biggest political stories while spotlighting news on under-reported issues as well as under-represented voices. The anchor also hopes to call attention to the Latinx community.

Johnson was the host of NPR’s “1A” before moving to MSNBC. His new show aims to connect everyday people and newsmakers for conversations about the biggest stories of the recent news cycle, in hopes of preparing audiences for days ahead. He has guest hosted MSNBC’s daytime coverage since joining the network and also taken part in election coverage.

Hunt, who is also NBC News’ Capitol Hill correspondent, will anchor “Way Too Early” from Washington. Her last broadcast of “Kasie DC,” which launched in October of 2017, will take place this weekend, on Sunday, September 13.

The moves will give MSNBC viewers 30 live hours on the weekends, with fresh programming on the air from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. eastern on both Saturdays and Sundays. MSNBC mainstays Alex Witt and the Reverend Al Sharpton will remain on the weekend schedule, with Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation” slated to run between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. eastern, and Witt getting three hours each Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m. Witt has been with MSNBC, often anchoring weekends, since 1999.