Alex Wagner will succeed Rachel Maddow as the weekday host of the 9 pm hour on MSNBC, the network announced Monday.
Wagner will host the hour Tuesday through Friday starting August 16, while Maddow continues to anchor the show once a week as she works on other projects with NBCUniversal. Maddow will presumably vacate the Monday edition of the program at a later date.
Wagner, a career-long progressive pundit, rejoined the channel in February as a senior political analyst after stints at The Atlantic and CBS News.
The move is a bit out of left field. Wagner is hardly a household name, yet got the job over Nicole Wallace — who was once the rumored favorite — Joy Reid and Chris Hayes.
Something to consider: Wagner is married to Sam Kass, a former White House chef who became close friends with Barack and Michelle Obama.
Does it make sense now? MSNBC is the most pro-Obama news network in the country — and that’s saying something.
Unlike CNN, MSNBC is open about its left-wing bias. The network recently gave both Chuck Todd and its 9 am news hour the hook in favor of progressive opinion programs. Moreover, Wagner’s elevation comes at the same time MSNBC brings in former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
While Wagner will fit in with the direction at MSNBC, she likely won’t save the ratings erosion. Wagner filled in on the Rachel Maddow Show in February, and the ratings tanked 21 percent.
Granted, no one at MSNBC could have sufficiently replaced Maddow. As we reported, the Rachel Maddow Show averaged 2.6 million in 2021 at 9 pm, while All in with Chris Hayes drew 1.57 million at 8 pm and Last Word averaged 1.79 million at 10 pm.
The disparity in viewership between Maddow and her lead-in and follow-in hosts suggests that roughly one million viewers tune into MSNBC’s primetime hours only for Maddow.
The success of the Wagner experiment will also depend on what CNN does head to head at 9 pm. New CNN President Chris Licht plans to name a replacement for fired host Chris Cuomo by the fall and hints it will be someone with a journalistic background. If Licht goes with a facts-first broadcaster, perhaps CNN’s more liberal viewers will give MSNBC a try at 9 pm.
“I am absolutely thrilled and honored and generally upside down with excitement to come back home to @MSNBC to host the 9 pm hour, beginning August 16,” Wagner tweets. “LET’S DO THIS.”
At least someone is excited.