The Corner

Of Course MSNBC Is Boring

The troubles continue at MSNBC. Per Dylan Byers at Politico:

In a memo to staff in December, MSNBC President Phil Griffin conceded that the network is suffering: “It’s no secret that 2014 was a difficult year for the entire cable news industry and especially for MSNBC,” he wrote. But change was coming, Griffin promised, with “more announcements in the New Year.”

The extent of that change could be vast: In the months ahead, MSNBC is likely to shake up the bulk of its programming, moving some shows and canceling others, high-level sources at NBCUniversal told POLITICO. With few exceptions — notably “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe” — every program is at risk of being moved or cancelled, those sources said. “All In with Chris Hayes,” a ratings suck that currently occupies the 8 p.m. time slot, will almost certainly be replaced. Network execs are also considering moving some weekday shows, like “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton,” to weekends.

I wrote at length about this earlier in the month, so I won’t rehash all my thoughts here. What I will say, however, is that MSNBC seems to be drawing a bright line between its politics and its appeal that I don’t think really exists:

Veteran hosts seem to have grown tired of trumpeting liberal outrage night after night, these critics say, and have become caricatures of themselves. The calculus for Griffin and Lack, then, is not just about balancing news and ideology. It’s about creating compelling programming.

“MSNBC got boring,” one former NBCUniversal executive said. “You’ll hear a lot of people talking about it being too far left, too political — all that matters is that it’s entertaining.”

The presumption here seems to be that one can put on explicitly progressive opinion programming that is also routinely exciting. Outside of the comedy realm, however, the evidence doesn’t seem to support that at all. Air America — which was supposed to compete with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin — was an abject and embarrassing failure. Since the glory days of the Bush administration, MSNBC has been too. Sure, there was a brief moment in which conservatives held pretty much all of the power and Keith Olbermann became the much-watched voice of the resistance. But moments pass, and successful television stations learn to adapt. MSNBC hasn’t. Almost certainly, it can’t. Why not? Well, because progressives are The Man now, and nobody wants to listen to The Man railing wildly against the rebels.

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