Brian Williams has enlisted the representation of CAA, a signal that the veteran TV journalist is devoting more thought to his career trajectory after leaving longtime home NBCUniversal at the end of 2021.
In December of that year, Williams signed off from his MSNBC program, “The 11th Hour,” warning viewers that, in the wake of the insurrection in Washington on January 6, 2020, “the darkness at the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods. It’s now at the local bar and the bowling alley, at the school board and the grocery store, and it must be acknowledged and answered for.”
He may seek out new opportunities to do so in the not-too-distant future.
In CAA, Williams has selected an agency that also works with some of his contemporaries, including MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. Williams will retain his longtime attorney, Robert Barnett, of Williams & Connolly LLP, who has helped guide his career over many years.
Williams’ next steps have been the subject of much speculation since he left NBC News and MSNBC after a nearly three-decade run that saw him achieve career highs and lows. His momentum revved at MSNBC in 1996, when he anchored a show called “The News,” and came to its denouement in 2021 on the same network. Between those two assignments, Williams rose to the top of the news business. He succeeded Tom Brokaw in 2004 as the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” which was the most-watched of the evening-news programs when Williams had to leave in 2015. He even began to show up in other places, hosting “Saturday Night Live” (the first evening-news anchor to do so), turning up on the comedy “30 Rock” and even doing voice-over work on the animated Fox series “Family Guy.” NBCUniversal suspended him for six months in 2015 and removed him from “Nightly” after determining he had misrepresented details about a story he had long told about a reporting trip in Iraq in 2003, some of which made it onto a “Nightly” broadcast.
He helped orchestrate a remarkable career resurgence with “The 11th Hour,” a program that served as a place to help viewers make sense of a confusing era in U.S. history, with the rise of Donald Trump and extreme political factions growing on both right and left. At its launch, the show marked a bold new effort. Most of the cable-news outlets went to repeats of their primetime schedule after 11 p.m. Now, none of them do. Even so, Williams’ segments were not filled with the usual cable-news talking heads screaming at each other, but actual experts. The reporters who visited had spent the day covering the stories they’re talking about, and other guests were usually attorneys or former government officials who knew what happened in a courtroom or the halls of Congress.
Even at the end of his time with NBCU, Williams suggested he would seek out new ventures when the time was appropriate. “I will probably find it impossible to be silent and stay away from you and lights and cameras after I experiment with relaxation and find out what I’m missing, and what’s out there,” he said in some of his final moments on MSNBC.
There has long been thought that Williams might seek out not just journalism opportunities, but duties that might give him the chance to nod to the worlds of entertainment and popular culture. Ask one person familiar with his plans what he might be considering and the answer could well range from a long-form interview show for one of the many streaming outlets, or a spot on a prominent news show. Since his departure from NBC, wagging tongues have put in contention for everything from a primetime slot at CNN to a correspondent role at “60 Minutes.”