He’s joining finance-focused news outlet CNBC to host a new evening-news program, marking one of the first major outside hires by the NBCUniversal-owned cable network in years. Smith will start anchoring “The News With Shepard Smith” in the fall. The program will air Monday through Friday at 7 p.m., and bears a title similar to the MSNBC and CNBC show that Brian Williams led between 1996 and 2004 – before he succeeded Tom Brokaw at “NBC Nightly News.”
The move lends a big name to CNBC’s primetime lineup, which has been filled in recent years with reality competitions and documentary series, including a show about cars led by Jay Leno and repeats of the popular program “Shark Tank.” It will also add ballast to recent speculation that NBCUniversal sees a chance to court members of Fox News’ large audience with anchors and programming that might appeal to them, and could use CNBC to do so.
“Information is coming at us from every direction. If we’re not careful, life-altering decisions will be made based on half-truth, rumor, misdirection or worse,” said Mark Hoffman, Chairman of CNBC, in a prepared statement. “We aim to deliver a nightly program that, in some small way, looks for the signal in all the noise. We’re thrilled that Shep, who’s built a career on an honest fight to find and report the facts, will continue his pursuit of the truth at CNBC.”
Smith billed the new show as a “fact-based, hour-long evening news program with the mission to cut through the static to deliver facts, in context and with perspective.” He is expected to rely in part on CNBC anchors and producers. Smith will serve as CNBC’s Chief General News Anchor and Chief Breaking General News Anchor, as well as the executive editor of his program. He held similar titles at Fox News Channel, where part of his role was to anchor top breaking news stories no matter when they erupted.
The new program will make CNBC more of a news destination in the early evening. The network has in the past several years largely wound down business coverage a few hours after the stock markets closed and relied on primetime series. Bringing Smith to the lineup will put CNBC more directly in competition not only with rival Fox Business Network, which airs Lou Dobbs program at 7 p.m., but with general-news rivals like CNN’s Erin Burnett and Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum. MSNBC has been mulling a new anchor for its 7 p.m. hour, with Joy Reid recently being named by The Wall Street Journal as one possibility.
The announcement gives Smith a new perch after he surprised many by leaving Fox News Channel in the middle of a contract he had signed in 2018. After more than two decades at the Fox Corp.-backed cable-news outlet, he had begun to debate the network’s primetime opinion hosts, and wound up being disparaged at times by Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Smith had been one of the network’s earliest hires. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor,” Smith told viewers in his last on-air appearance on Fox News.
Smith will be holding forth for a significantly smaller audience. His Fox News show – one of the lower-rated at the network, owing to its mid-afternoon perch, reached an average audience that was usually well in excess of a million viewers. CNBC’s 7 p.m. hour typically lures around 250,000, according to figures from Nielsen.
Before joining Fox News Channel, Smith was a corresponden for Fox News Edge, an affiliate news service, based in Los Angeles. He began his broadcast career at local stations in Florida.
Whether CNBC has new plans for other parts of its nighttime lineup remain to be seen. But Hoffman, the network’s chairman, described Smith’s new show as “the perfect bridge between CNBC’s daytime investor-focused news programming and the network’s aspirational business-oriented entertainment programs in primetime.”