MSNBC is a US-based news station owned by NBCUniversal News Group which is a part of NBC Universal Television Group and the Television Group in turn is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal and the whole chain is owned by Comcast. The pay TV and its web-portal were established in 1996 as a joint venture between Microsoft and General Electric’s NBC Unit. The two media assets besides having the same corporate name had different corporate identities in term of structures, news operations and others.
The companies were headquartered in opposite places with MSN in Redmond, Washington and the MSNBC channel in New York City. Microsoft resigned from its stake in MSNBC Channel in 2005 and msnbc.com in July 2012. The old web-address of the news site was replaced with a news domain name NBCNews.com whereas msnbc.com became the online identity of the cable network.
Lately in summer of 2015, the MSNBC management decided to make radical changes in the programming as they looked to strengthen their news image. The network’s trademark program MSNBC Live was stretched to broadcast more than eight hours during daytime.
Phil Griffin at present is serving as the President and Director Operations at MSNBC. Jonathan Wald, Pat Burkey and Janelle Rodriguez are in charge of programming and news operations. The channel as of Feb 2015, has enjoyed a reach to 94, 531, 000 domestic households in America. MSNBC is termed as a left-wing fan because of its editorial policies and news strategy which are always streamlining and consistent with those (political policies) of Democratic Party and its administrations. According to the criticizers, the primetime lineups of the station are well in agreement with the progressive political agenda. However, the cancellation of Phil Donahue’s show in 2003 mainly because of his overtly opposing stance on Iraq war and the targeting of Ed Schultz’s Show are given as a counter-argument against leftist bias claim by critics.
Foundation and Growth
MSNBC was born as a result of a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft and notably with the efforts and personal interest shown by NBC executive Tom Rogers at that time. Microsoft was persuaded to invest its $221m for 50% stake in the network while the two companies shared the expense of a $200m to construct a newsroom for msnbc.com in Secaucus, NJ. Upon its launch on July 15, 1996, MSNBC replaced NBC-owned America’s Talking (AT) and cable carriage of the network was negotiated with the new cable carriers.
Early Times and Further Development
Jodi Applegate hosted the first show of MSNBC upon its launch in July 1996; the program included news, commentary and interviews. Round the clock news coverage was highlighted with The Contributors co-run by Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter and others including John Gibson, John Seigenthaler and Jodi. The news stories were comparatively more detailed than those produced by Cable News Network: CNN. NBC was also sharing the stories directly picked form its network affiliates to prove its news breaking capacity.
In a steady manner, the network started supplementing its programming by adding politics in its broadcast base. Mike Barnicle’s show was soon terminated after its start because of the augmentation in production costs. The frustration was evident when Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer showed said that he wouldn’t have involved in this partnership if he had an idea of the difficulty faced in attracting viewers.
Following the September 11 attacks, NBC steered MSNBC as its offshoot to disseminate up-to-the-minute coverage sourced by it. CNBC and CNBC Europe shared MSNBC’s resource for many days after the incident. Ashleigh Banfield who was at the site of Collapse of Building 7 all of a sudden became a household name in the network and cashed her newfound celebrity status by coming up with exclusive interviews from the battlefields in Afghanistan.
NBC Universal on Dec 23, 2005 officially declared that it would be acquiring 32% additional stake in the channel from Microsoft to run the network more coherently. However, the deal would not affect the online platform: msnb.com. NBC later acquired the 18% remaining share in the MSNBC to have solitary ownership over the station. Rick Kaplan on June 7, 2006 resigned from his position as the President of MSNBC after serving two years on the post. Dan Abrams became the general manager five days later and senior vice president Phil Griffin started managing the matters of MSNBC in the absence of President. MSNBC’s early-primetime and primetime lineup was rescheduled on June 29, 2006. Following the Abrams resigning from the position of GM to give time to his ET talk show, Live with Dan Abrams, supervision of NBC further gravitated towards Phil Griffin.
Realizing the need of one building operation for all news, the network after shifting to NBC 30 Rockefeller Center Complex started broadcasting from its new studios in the Complex on Oct 22, 2007.
Important Times in Ratings
MSNBC showed impressive increase in Nielsen ratings from mid-2007 to mid of 2008 where primetime ratings increased up to 61%. Chris Matthews, David Gregory and Keith Olbermann led the coverage of Presidential campaigns and elections. In the first three months of the presidential campaign ahead of General Elections, ratings surged to 158% while the overall all 2008 presidential campaign viewership was recorded more than a double from 2004 Presidential Elections. In the course, MSNBC triumphed CNN in ratings for the first time in the last three months of campaign.
Another difference maker in the ratings was The Rachel Maddow Show which was smartly launched in Sep 2008 to vie for the sought-after primetime ratings in which MSNBC was showing a lag for quite a time. In a short span of time, the show started outdoing Cable News Network’s Larry King Live for the first time in over a decade. For the first time since 2001, MSNBC in 3rd quarter of 2010 outnumbered the former channel in primetime and overall ratings. The Ed Show, The Rachel Maddow Show, Morning Joe, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Hardball with Chris Matthews remained the face of MSNBC with all outsmarting CNN in their respective time slot competitors. Celebrating the occasion, Phil Griffin on Oct 11, 2010, who became President of MSNBC in 2008, said: “We’ve taken on CNN and we beat them,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told employees at a series of celebratory “town hall” meetings. “Now it’s time to take on Fox.”
Following the launch of new televised advertising campaign, President of msnbc.com, Charlie Tillinghast, in July 2012 decided to rebrand the online portal as NBCNews.com. On Jan 21, 2011, the veteran Keith Olbermann, the host of Countdown, left the station after his contract with the MSNBC ended. By Year 2014, the total ratings in the 25-54 demographic dropped by 20% as the network finished third behind Cable News Network. However, it was still maintaining its place as a leader in Hispanic and African-American Groups.
Efforts for the Revival of MSNBC News (Since 2015)
To deal with struggling news image of the station, in a massive revamp campaign, almost all the opinionated programming with leftist biased was replaced with Hard news segments. Established names in the NBC such as Thomas Roberts, Chuck Todd, Brain Williams, Jose Diaz Balart and Kate Snow were given the responsibility to revive the position of the channel with objective generic news.
The 11th Hour with Brian Williams in Sep 2016, Dateline NBC, For the Record with Greta and Deadline: White House made their debuts in 2016, 2017 and 2017 respectively in the campaign to rebuild the network.
The left-leaning journalism and opinionated version of news carried by the station has always received criticism. In a study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013, the network was found producing 85% of commentary and opinion based programming and only 15% of the total content was described as factual and objective. In another report that surfaced in 2012, it was revealed that only $240m was used by MSNBC for the news production while its competitors Fox and CNN’s expense for the same was measured to be $820m and $682m.
Ed Rendell, Bill Clinton and other big guns in democrats accused MSNBC of being favoring Obama in Democratic Party Primaries. Rendell who was later staffed as an on-air contributor by MSNBC said about the said channel: “MSNBC was the official network of the Obama campaign.” The preferential treatment of Obama produced the backlash from both Democrats and Republican sides as another research showed that MSNBC covered Obama less negatively than Republican John McCain.
MSNBC is available worldwide. You can have the channel’s live stream through a number of Cable, IPTV and Apple TV Streaming platforms which notably include AT&T U-Verse, Century Link, Bell Aliant TV, TELUS TV . Some other providers include VMedia, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Verizon FiOS, PlayStation Vue and Google Fiber.