NBC chief: Maddow pivot away from daily show a case study in ‘proliferation of platforms’
NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde said the network hopes a pivot by Rachel Maddow, one of the company’s top talents, away from her daily show to focus on other projects will serve as a case study in the industry on what he called the “proliferation of platforms.”
The network announced this week that Maddow would scale back her hosting duties on cable to once a week, appearing on Mondays only, and that it hired journalist and pundit Alex Wagner to host a show in MSNBC’s 9 p.m. time slot on the remaining weekdays.
Maddow, who has amassed a large and loyal left-leaning audience since joining the network, announced earlier this year that as part of her new multiyear deal with MSNBC she would be shifting away from her daily evening program to focus on more long-form projects, podcasts and other content for the company’s various streaming services.
“This is a great example of what we think is a win-win for everyone. Rachel is going to continue being on MSNBC but instead of being daily, it will be once a week and it frees her up. And it’s a great case study in sort of this proliferation of platforms,” Conde said during a conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week.
“It frees up someone who has an incredible following to now do yes live cable TV, but it also allows her now to do podcasts. It allows her to now do programs for us on our streaming platform. It allows her to work on documentaries and longer-form series, which we think is extraordinarily important because we have so many more touch points.”
Wagner, who had a previous daytime show on MSNBC canceled in 2015, “is an incredible journalist and analyst and we’re just very lucky to have,” Conde said.
“And we think it’s a win for them. We think it’s a win for us. And we think it’s a win for our audience,” he said.
Each of the major news networks and cable channels has in recent years made large pushes into streaming and audio, hiring thousands of staff and pouring millions into those endeavors as more Americans cut cable each year.
It has been a bumpy road for some. CNN recently shuttered its highly-promoted streaming service after less than a month once new ownership took over. And most news providers have struggled to grow audiences on streaming that are comparable to the advertiser-rich exposure they enjoy on traditional cable.
“When it comes to streaming news in the ecosystem, those habits only started to be formed over the last few years. And so that’s why in our particular case, we moved very aggressively over the last two years to invest in building a news streaming platform because we wanted to be able to build and get audiences that were different from our traditional linear audiences,” Conde said in reference to NBC’s push into streaming news.
“In other words, people who are not subscribing to cable service or satellite service as we may all have done growing up. So up until now, it has been a net positive add to our ecosystem. And the good news is that consumption is growing exponentially, not only for us but in the overall news streaming service.”