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On Tuesday, long-time anchor Brian Williams announced he would depart NBC and MSNBC at the end of the year, before his contract expires.
“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another,” Williams said in his statement. “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere.”
Williams, 62, is correct that he’ll have options. Williams’ reps have already had discussions with multiple networks.
According to Emily Smith of the New York Post, media sources say ABC has reached out for an unknown role, though ABC strikes me as an odd fit.
Since Disney doesn’t own a cable news network, it’d likely have to put Williams on ABC’s linear network, where real estate is limited. Moreover, ABC already employs two high-profile anchors, David Muir and George Stephanopoulos, a duo that has battled in the past. Adding Williams to the mix would only agitate Stephanopoulos’ thin skin more.
Of course, Williams could sign on for one of Disney’s streaming services, such as Hulu or ABC News Live. And Williams might find Hulu appealing. I suspect Hulu will add original news/talk programs in the coming years. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith had publicly campaigned for Disney to place him on Hulu to launch a new late-night program.
The other destination to watch is CNN. Williams’ big-time attorney, Bob Barnett, held talks with Jeff Zucker before Williams made the decision to leave MSNBC. The network’s upcoming streaming service, CNN+, will play a crucial role in its parent company WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery Inc.
Zucker has bold hopes for CNN+. He already offered Rachel Maddow $20 million a year to front the network on-air. Maddow declined the offer and re-signed with MSNBC until 2024.
Williams would likely have a signature role on CNN+, perhaps with a lax time slot and schedule. Williams reportedly grew tired of hosting a weekday program at 11 pm ET.
In theory, CNN could also find a television presence for Williams, if he views leaving TV entirely as a deal-breaker. However, it wouldn’t be a significant role on a roster next to Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, and Anderson Cooper.
Streaming services like AppleTV+ could consider Williams as well. This fall, Apple stepped halfway into original news programming, teaming up with Jon Stewart to launch The Problem.
So by no means is Williams’ career over, but his days of making superstar money likely are. Williams made $10 million annually at MSNBC. It’s hard to fathom a network lining up at that price at this stage of Brian Williams’ career. Then again, it takes only one sucker.