MSNBC is an American cable television channel that provides NBC News coverage as well as its own reporting and political commentary on current events. MSNBC is owned by the NBCUniversal News Group, a unit of the NBCUniversal Broadcast, Cable, Sports and News division of NBCUniversal.
MSNBC and its website were founded in 1996 under a partnership between Microsoft and General Electrics NBC unit, hence the networks naming. Although they had the same name, msnbc.com and MSNBC maintained separate corporate structures and news operations. msnbc.com was headquartered on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, while MSNBC operated out of NBCs headquarters in New York City. Microsoft divested itself of its stakes in the MSNBC channel in 2005 and in msnbc.com in July 2012. The general news site was rebranded as NBCNews.com, and a new msnbc.com was created as the online home of the cable channel.
In the late summer of 2015, MSNBC revamped its programming; the moves were in sharp contrast to previous programming decisions at the network. MSNBC sought to sharpen its news image by entering into a dual editorial relationship with its organizational parent NBC News. MSNBC Live, the networks flagship daytime news platform, was expanded to cover over eight hours of the day. Phil Griffin is the president and director of day-to-day operations at MSNBC.
As of September 2018, approximately 87 million households in the United States 90.7 percent of pay television subscribers were receiving MSNBC. In 2019, MSNBC ranked second among basic cable networks averaging 1.8 million viewers, behind rival Fox News.
1.1. History Development
MSNBC was established under a strategic partnership between NBC and Microsoft. NBC executive Tom Rogers was instrumental in developing this partnership. James Kinsella, a Microsoft executive, served as president of the online component, MSNBC.com, and represented the tech company in the joint venture. Microsoft invested $221 million for a 50 percent share of the cable channel. MSNBC and Microsoft shared the cost of a $200 million newsroom in Secaucus, New Jersey, for msnbc.com. The network took over the channel space of NBCs 2-year-old Americas Talking AT network, although in most cases cable carriage had to be negotiated with providers who had never carried AT.
1.2. History Early history
MSNBC was launched on July 15, 1996. The first show was anchored by Jodi Applegate and included news, interviews, and commentary. During the day, rolling news coverage continued with The Contributors, a show that featured Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, as well as interactive programming coordinated by Applegate, John Gibson, and John Seigenthaler. Stories were generally longer and more detailed than the stories CNN was running. NBC also highlighted their broadcast connections by airing stories directly from NBCs network affiliates, along with breaking news coverage from the same sources.
MSNBC gradually increased its emphasis on politics. After completing its seven-year survey of cable channels, the Project for Excellence in Journalism said in 2007 that, "MSNBC is moving to make politics a brand, with a large dose of opinion and personality."
In January 2001, Mike Barnicles MSNBC show started, but it was canceled in June 2001 because of high production costs. In June, Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said that he would not have started MSNBC had he foreseen the difficulty of attracting viewers.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, NBC used MSNBC as an outlet for the up-to-the-minute coverage being provided by NBC News as a supplement to the longer stories on broadcast NBC. With little financial news to cover, CNBC and CNBC Europe ran MSNBC for many hours each day following the attacks. The year also boosted the profile of Ashleigh Banfield, who was present during the collapse of Building 7 while covering the World Trade Center on September 11. Her Region In Conflict program capitalized on her newfound celebrity and showcased exclusive interviews from Afghanistan.
In the aftermath of September 11, MSNBC began calling itself "America’s NewsChannel" and hired opinionated hosts like Alan Keyes, Phil Donahue, Pat Buchanan, and Tucker Carlson; This branding makeover, however, was followed by declining ratings.
On December 23, 2005, NBC Universal announced its acquisition of an additional 32 percent share of MSNBC from Microsoft, which solidified its control over television operations and allowed NBC to further consolidate MSNBCs backroom operations with NBC News and its other cable properties. The news website msnbc.com remained a separate joint venture between Microsoft and NBC for another seven years. NBC later exercised its option to purchase Microsofts remaining 18 percent interest in MSNBC.
In late 2005, MSNBC began attracting liberal and progressive viewers as Keith Olbermann began critiquing and satirizing conservative media commentators during his Countdown With Keith Olbermann program. He especially focused his attention on the Fox News Channel and Bill OReilly, its principal primetime commentator.
On June 7, 2006, Rick Kaplan resigned as president of MSNBC after holding the post for two years. Five days later, Dan Abrams, a nine-year veteran of MSNBC and NBC News, was named general manager of MSNBC with immediate effect. NBC News senior vice president Phil Griffin would oversee MSNBC while continuing to oversee NBC News’ Today program, with Abrams reporting to Griffin.
On June 29, 2006, Abrams announced the revamp of MSNBCs early-primetime and primetime schedule. On July 10, Tucker formerly The Situation with Tucker Carlson started airing at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET taking over Abrams old timeslot, while Rita Cosbys Live & Direct was canceled. Cosby was made the primary anchor for MSNBC Investigates at 10 and 11 p.m. ET, a new program that took over Cosby and Carlsons timeslots. According to the press release, MSNBC Investigates promised to "complement MSNBCs existing programming by building on library of award-winning documentaries." The move to taped programming during 10 and 11 p.m. probably resulted from MSNBCs successful Friday "experiment" of replacing all primetime programming with taped specials.
On September 24, 2007, Abrams announced that he was leaving his general manager position so he could focus on his 9:00 p.m. ET talk show, Live With Dan Abrams. Oversight of MSNBC was shifted to Phil Griffin, a senior vice president at NBC.
MSNBC and NBC News began broadcasting from their new studios at NBCs 30 Rockefeller Center complex in New York City on October 22, 2007. The extensive renovations of the associated studios allowed NBC to merge its entire news operation into one building. All MSNBC broadcasts and NBC Nightly News originate from the new studios. More than 12.5 hours of live television across the NBC News family originate from the New York studios daily. MSNBC also announced new studios near the Universal Studios lot. MSNBCs master control did not make the move to 30 Rock. It remained in the old Secaucus headquarters until it completed its move to the NBC Universal Network Origination Center located inside the CNBC Global Headquarters building in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on December 21, 2007. Shortly thereafter, Major League Baseball firmed up a long-term lease of the former MSNBC building to become the home studios of MLB Network, which launched from the facility on January 1, 2009.
1.3. History 2008–2015
From mid-2007 to mid-2008, MSNBC enjoyed a large increase in its Nielsen ratings. Primetime viewings increased by 61 percent. In May 2008, NBC News president Steve Capus said, "It used to be people didnt have to worry about MSNBC because it was an also-ran cable channel. Thats not the case anymore." Tim Russerts sudden death in June 2008 removed what The Wall Street Journal called the "rudder for the network" and led to a period of transition.
During the 2008 presidential election, MSNBCs coverage was anchored by Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and David Gregory. They were widely viewed as the face of the channels political coverage. During the first three months of the presidential campaign, MSNBCs ratings grew by 158 percent. Olbermann and Matthews, however, were criticized for expressing left-leaning opinions on the channel. Both were later removed from their anchor positions. Audience viewership during the 2008 presidential campaign more than doubled from the 2004 presidential election, and the channel topped CNN in ratings for the first time during the last three months of the campaign in the key 25–54 age demographic.
In September 2008, the channel hired political analyst and Air America Radio personality Rachel Maddow to host a new political opinion program called The Rachel Maddow Show. The move to create a new program for the channel was widely seen as a smart ratings move, where beforehand, MSNBC lagged behind in coveted primetime ratings. The show regularly outperformed CNNs Larry King Live, and made the channel competitive in the programs time slot for the first time in over a decade.
In the first quarter of 2010, MSNBC beat CNN in primetime and overall ratings, marking the first time doing so since 2001. The channel also beat CNN in total adult viewers in March, marking the seventh out of the past eight months that MSNBC achieved that result. In addition, the programs Morning Joe, The Ed Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and The Rachel Maddow Show finished ahead of their time slot competitors at CNN.
In the third quarter of 2010, MSNBC continued its solid lead over CNN, beating the network in total day for the first time since the second quarter of 2001 in the key adult demographic. The network also beat CNN for the fourth consecutive quarter, among both primetime and total viewers, as well as becoming the only cable news network to have its key adult demographic viewership grow over the last quarter, increasing by 4 percent. During this time, MSNBC also became the number-one cable news network in primetime among both African American and Hispanic viewers.
On October 11, 2010, MSNBC unveiled a new televised advertising campaign and slogan called "Lean Forward". "Weve taken on CNN and we beat them," MSNBC president Phil Griffin told employees at a series of celebratory "town hall" meetings. "Now its time to take on Fox." Concerning the campaign, Griffin said, "It is active, it is positive, it is about making tomorrow better than today, a discussion about politics and the actions and passions of our time." The new campaign embraces the networks politically progressive identity. The two-year advertising campaign would cost $2 million and consist of internet, television, and print advertising. The new positioning has created brand image issues for msnbc.com, the umbrella website for the television network. A New York Times article quotes Charlie Tillinghast, president of msnbc.com, a separate company, as saying, "Both strategies are fine, but naming them the same thing is brand insanity." As a result, msnbc.com eventually changed its name to prevent confusion with the television network, MSNBC; it rebranded the more news-driven msnbc.com as NBCNews.com in July 2012.
On January 21, 2011, Olbermann announced his departure from MSNBC and the episode would be the final episode of Countdown. His departure received much media attention. MSNBC issued a statement that it had ended its contract with Olbermann, with no further explanation. Olbermann later revealed that he had taken his show to Current TV.
During 2014, MSNBCs total ratings in the 25 to 54 age group declined 20 percent, falling to third place behind CNN. The only demographic in which MSNBC still led was among Hispanics and even more so among African-Americans.
1.4. History Return to hard news and alignment with NBC News: since 2015
To help revive the struggling network, MSNBC in the summer of 2015 started transitioning from left-leaning, opinionated programming to hard news programming. Nearly all daytime opinionated news programs were replaced with more generic news programs. Ronan Farrow, Joy-Ann Reid, Krystal Ball, Toure, Abby Huntsman, Alex Wagner, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton lost their shows. News programs presented by established NBC News personalities such as Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart, Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd, Sunday NBC Nightly News anchor Kate Snow, Thomas Roberts, and former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams replaced the opinion shows. The revamped on-air presentation debuted in late summer 2015 and included a new logo, news ticker, and graphics package. MSNBC Live had at least eight hours of programming each day, barring any breaking news that could extend its time. Daytime news coverage was led primarily by Brian Williams, Stephanie Ruhle, Jose Diaz-Balart, Andrea Mitchell, Craig Melvin, Thomas Roberts, and Kate Snow, in addition to "beat leaders" stationed throughout the newsroom. These included chief legal correspondent Ari Melber, primary political reporter Steve Kornacki, business and finance correspondent Olivia Sterns, and senior editor Cal Perry. Morning and primetime programming did not change and remained filled mostly by opinionated personalities.
In April 2016, MSNBC launched a promotional ad campaign with the theme, "in order to know beyond, you have to go beyond." The campaign portrayed MSNBCs reporting and perspectives as "in depth" and an alternative to "talking points" coverage on other cable news outlets.
In July 2016, the network debuted Dateline Extra, which was an abridged version of Dateline NBC and another step towards aligning MSNBC and NBC News. The new program was hosted by MSNBC Live anchor Tamron Hall.
In September 2016, MSNBC launched The 11th Hour with Brian Williams as a nightly wrap-up of the days news and a preview of the following days headlines. This was MSNBCs first new primetime program in nearly four years.
In January 2017, MSNBC debuted a program in the 6 pm EST hour entitled For the Record with Greta, hosted by former Fox News Channel anchor Greta Van Susteren. The program aired for six months before being cancelled in late June 2017. The network promoted Chief legal Correspondent Ari Melber to host The Beat with Ari Melber at 6pm.
In March 2017, MSNBC started rebranding its daytime shows as "NBC News" programs. The network logos started appearing on show opens, within the set design, and in commercials. In May 2017, MSNBC launched a 4pm afternoon program entitled Deadline: White House and hosted by former White House communications director and NBC political analyst Nicolle Wallace.
For the first time, MSNBC in May 2017 became the highest rated American cable news network in primetime. MSNBCs increasing viewership was accompanied by declining numbers at Fox News Channel. MSNBCs May 15–19 programming topped the programming of both CNN and Fox News in total viewers and the advertiser-coveted younger demographic.
Another significant change was made on April 16, 2018, when MSNBC completely removed the news ticker at the bottom of the screen on every program, citing the reason "for a cleaner view that puts our reporting more front and center. and we want viewers to get the best possible experience". At the time of the change, CNN is still running the news ticker during live programming although its sister network HLN does not, meanwhile Fox News only scraps the news ticker during daytime news programs.
2. Carriage issues
Before 2010, MSNBC was not available to Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse television subscribers in the portions of New York State, northern New Jersey, and Connecticut that overlapped Cablevisions service area. One of several reasons for this was an exclusive carriage agreement between MSNBC and Cablevision that prohibited competing wired providers from carrying MSNBC. The terms of the agreement were not publicly known.
In 2009, Verizon filed a formal "program-access complaint" with the Federal Communications Commission and petitioned for termination of the deal. In support of Verizon, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued that the arrangement could be illegal. After entering into a new contract, FiOS added the channel in New York City and New Jersey on February 2, 2010.
3. MSNBC International
In southern Africa, MSNBC is distributed free-to-air on satellite on Free2View TV as MSNBC Africa, a joint venture between Great Media Limited and MSNBC. Free2View airs MSNBCs programming from 4 p.m. to midnight ET in a block that repeats twice live for the first airing, with local Weather Channel forecasts.
In Asia and Europe, MSNBC is not shown on a dedicated channel. When MSNBC started in 1996, they announced plans to start broadcasting in Europe during 1997. This never happened although MSNBC was seen occasionally on affiliate channel CNBC Europe until the end of the 2000s, showing the channel overnight at the weekend and during the afternoon on American public holidays as well as during breaking news events.
In Turkey, NTV-MSNBC is the news channel of the Turkish broadcaster NTV Turkey. The channel is a joint partnership between the two, although very little Turkish content is shown on English MSNBC. English content on MSNBC is translated into Turkish.
MSNBC and its website msnbc.com were launched concurrently. Unlike the network, msnbc.com was operated as the general online news outlet of NBC News in partnership with Microsofts MSN.com portal. The network and website also remained editorially separate. The website did not adopt the networks increasingly liberal viewpoints and remained a joint venture with Microsoft even after it had sold its stake in MSNBC.
In July 2012, NBC acquired Microsofts remaining stake in msnbc.com and re-branded it as NBCNews.com. After being redirected to the new name for a period, msnbc.com was re-launched in 2013 as the website for MSNBC. The website included opinion columns from hosts, correspondents, and guests, along with live and on-demand videos from MSNBC programs.
4.1. Online Shift
In July 2014, msnbc.com launched msnbc2, a brand for several web-only series hosted by MSNBC personalities. In December 2014, msnbc2 was renamed shift, with a programming schedule that was less focused on politics and more tailored to a younger audience.
MSNBC launched on XM Satellite Radio channel 120 and Sirius Satellite Radio channel 90 on April 12, 2010. This is the second time MSNBC has been available on satellite radio. The channel was dropped from XM Radio on September 4, 2006.
The simulcast of MSNBCs programming is on SiriusXM channel 118.
6. Criticism and controversy
Alec Baldwins 2013 show Up Late with Alec Baldwin was suspended after five episodes because of a homophobic slur Baldwin made to a photographer in New York City.
6.1. Criticism and controversy Liberal bias
In November 2007, a New York Times article stated that MSNBCs primetime lineup was tilting more to the left. Since then, commentators have argued that MSNBC has a bias towards left-leaning politics and the Democratic Party. Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz, while previously in the same role at The Washington Post, stated that the channels evening lineup "has clearly gravitated to the left in recent years and often seems to regard itself as the antithesis of Fox News" In 2011, Politico referred to MSNBC as "left-leaning", and Steve Kornacki of Salon.com noted that, "MSNBC’s prime-time lineup is now awash in progressive politics." Regarding changes in the channels evening programming, senior vice president of NBC News Phil Griffin claimed that "it happened naturally. There isnt a dogma were putting through. There is a Go for it."
In the February 2008 issue of Mens Journal magazine, an MSNBC interviewee quoted a senior executive as saying that liberal commentator Keith Olbermann "runs MSNBC" and that "because of his success, hes in charge" of the channel. In 2007, The New York Times called Olbermann MSNBCs "most recognizable face". In September 2008, MSNBC stated that Olbermann and Chris Matthews would no longer anchor live political events, with David Gregory assuming that role. MSNBC cited the growing criticism that they were "too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign." Olbermanns show Countdown continued to run before and after the presidential and vice presidential debates, and both Matthews and Olbermann joined Gregory on the channels election night coverage.
On November 13, 2009, in the days leading up to the release of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palins book Going Rogue, MSNBCs Dylan Ratigan used photoshopped pictures of Palin on the channels Morning Meeting program. Ratigan apologized a few days later.
In October 2010, MSNBC began using the tagline "Lean Forward". Some media outlets, including msnbc.com, claimed that the network was now embracing its politically progressive identity.
In January 2012, MSNBC used Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and other network commentators during its coverage of the Iowa Republican caucuses. Nando Di Fino of the Mediaite website said MSNBC was "giving up on the straight news coverage, and instead, where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person." Afterwards, Harris-Perry gave an on-air apology as well as apologized in a series of tweets.
6.2. Criticism and controversy Coverage of the 2020 Democratic Primary
On February 2, 2019, NBC ran a story about presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard claiming that her campaign was benefiting from Russian state media, stating that she had received twice as many mentions on RT, Sputnik News and Russia Insider compared to expected front-runners Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
In March 2019, Yashar Ali, a journalist for The Huffington Post accused Dafna Linzer, a managing editor at MSNBC, of ceding editorial control to the Democratic National Committee. Ali, who planned to announce the locations of the DNC debates in advance of MSNBC, received a call attempting to dissuade him with the phrase "let them make a few phone calls," referring to party leaders. A source quoted by CNN stated that this approach was necessary for any network that has enough of a relationship with the DNC to host its debates.
Candidate Andrew Yang and his supporters have been critical of MSNBCs coverage of his campaign and the speaking time allocated to Yang at a November 2019 primary debate hosted by MSNBC.
6.3. Criticism and controversy Michael Savage
Michael Savage briefly hosted a weekend talk show in 2003. That July, Savage responded to a prank caller on his show by calling him a "pig" and a "sodomite", and telling him he "should get AIDS and die." Savages show was canceled and he was dismissed from MSNBC shortly thereafter.
6.4. Criticism and controversy Don Imus
Don Imus, radio show Imus in the Morning was simulcast on MSNBC for over ten years. In 2007, he described members of the Rutgers University womens basketball team as "some nappy-headed hoes." The racist remark was met with outrage, and advertisers withdrew from the show, with MSNBC canceling the simulcast. Both Imus and NBC News apologized to the Rutgers Basketball team for the remarks.
6.5. Criticism and controversy Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough
On November 5, 2010, MSNBC President Phil Griffin suspended Keith Olbermann indefinitely without pay for having contributed $2.400 the maximum personal donation limit to each of three Democratic Party candidates during the 2010 midterm election cycle. NBC News policy prohibited contributions to political campaigns unless NBC News had given its prior permission. On November 7, 2010, Olbermann posted a thank you message to supporters via Twitter. That same day, MSNBC announced that he would be back on the air starting on November 9.
Two weeks later, Griffin announced the suspension of Joe Scarborough for similar misconduct. The Morning Joe host had donated $4.000 to Republican candidates in Florida. Like Olbermanns suspension, Scarboroughs was brief, and he returned to the airwaves on November 24.
6.6. Criticism and controversy Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwins 2013 show Up Late with Alec Baldwin was suspended after five episodes because of a homophobic slur Baldwin made to a photographer in New York City.
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