The New MSNBC: Working All Sides Of The Story

How can you get attention from your seemingly underperforming cable news editorial staff? Promote from within, and somewhat wildly.

Veteran senior news NBC management executives have come and gone from MSNBC. Now NBC has made a bold move in picking on-air MSNBC anchor, Dan Abrams of "The Abrams Report," to run the channel. This was shocking news to the MSNBC staff.

Abrams has no management experience--and apparently got the job from expressing his views on the channel to NBC News president Steve Capus. What does Abrams --a longtime legal analyst and son of the well-known lawyer Floyd Abrams--want to do? He told The New York Times the need was for more breaking news coverage during the channel's daytime hours.

Okay, we'll all for that. From a politically run prospective--a newbie on the job--that's a good sentiment. But the real emphasis and change comes from Abrams' direct reports--Capus and the executive in overall charge, Phil Griffin, 49, president of NBC's "Today" show.



Capus, in particular, wants to go back to making prime time a priority because--as we all know--that's where the big advertising dollars are. Some resources and/or reports from NBC's "Dateline" will be making their way to MSNBC in prime time. Seemingly shows fronted by Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are safe, but others from Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough are on the bubble.

Interestingly, NBC isn't targeting Fox News, per se. It's really CNN that's in its direct line of fire. Olbermann's show, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," has actually beaten CNN on some nights recently, says MSNBC.

NBC said it replaced former MSNBC president Rick Kaplan with Abrams and Griffin because it thought the time was right--that the network was on the upswing. As this column has said before, we find that head-scratchingly interesting. With a network turning around, one would seem to continue down that road for a while since, well, things are working.

But, as has also been documented, General Electric will only stand for its businesses to be either first or second in their fields. Any moves in that direction are encouraged.

With any working media organization, there is plenty of credit and blame to go around. Perhaps at MSNBC they are still figuring out where all that goes. Perhaps that's why NBC cautiously plays two sides of the coin--one veteran executive, Griffin, and one unknown, Abrams. Between the two there'll be an interesting story for MSNBC.

Truth, Justice And The Upfront Way: Let Us Know What You Think

Is this year's upfront more secretive, more protracted or much different than in year's past? What do you think is the role of the trade press and public spin in upfront ad negotiations? Let us know your opinions. They will be kept confidential and results will be reported next week by MediaPost. Please click here to participate in a brief online survey conducted via InsightExpress.

Be An Upfront Expert, Win A Free Slingbox

You can still enter TV Watch's upfront predictions contest by replying to this e-mail with your best guess for the following:

*Total network prime-time sales for the six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV) in billions of dollars to two decimal points.

*The individual prime-time sales totals for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV.

The tiebreaker: Predict the CPM percentage change from last year's prime-time upfront for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

The winner must match MediaPost's compilation of a consensus from leading trade publications, newspaper coverage and securities firms.

In the event of a tie, MediaPost will pick one winner from a random drawing.

The winner will receive a free Slingbox to watch TV on the go, even as the upfront is going, going, gone.

As a point of reference, here's how the networks performed during the 2005-06 prime-time upfront:

ABC: $2.08 billion
CBS: $2.60 billion
NBC: $1.90 billion
Fox: $1.60 billion
UPN: $0.24 billion
WB: $0.68 billion
Six-networks (including UPN and WB): $9.09 billion.

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