WASHINGTON — Building on the momentum of its prime-time hours, MSNBC is developing a 10 p.m. program that would complement its left-leaning evening lineup, the cable news channel’s president said this week.
A new program could increase the competition between MSNBC, a unit of NBC Universal, and its two chief competitors, Fox News Channel and CNN, for news viewers in the time slot. Unlike most major networks, MSNBC’s original programming ends at 10 each weeknight. The 8 p.m. program “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” is rerun at 10 p.m., where it usually ranks third.
But Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, is making 10 p.m. a priority now. In an interview on Tuesday in a studio on the Mall, hours after the inauguration of President Obama, Mr. Griffin said that the channel needed a third original show in its lineup.
“We can’t let this momentum stop,” he said.
There is no obvious candidate to host the 10 p.m. hour; the network seems to lack a substantial bench of opinionated hosts-in-waiting. Then again, Rachel Maddow became a political analyst for MSNBC just 12 months ago, and now her 9 p.m. program, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” outrates CNN’s “Larry King Live” in the 25-to-54 age group.
And if you’re thinking a conservative would make a great addition, think again:
In an e-mail message, Mr. Olbermann said he was working with Mr. Griffin to develop options for the 10 p.m. hour. He echoed Mr. Griffin’s comments about the need for a complete prime-time schedule. “Losing the 10 p.m. replay is a very small price to pay for a last piece to the puzzle,” Mr. Olbermann said.