Coming off a monstrous 2020, MSNBC faces a future of uncertainty. In addition to a presidency failing to generate effective left-wing talking points, an aging demographic, and Rachel Maddow’s impending departure from primetime — the network now plans to lose another nightly host.
Brian Williams’ contract with MSNBC expires at the end of the year, and wants to move away from his current 11 pm ET time slot. And according to Business Insider, Williams’ big-time attorney, Bob Barnett, has had talks with CBS News co-president Neeraj Khemlani and CNN’s Jeff Zucker.
CBS and CNN are both investing resources into streaming services dedicated to their news divisions. CNN+, the more notable of the two, will launch in early 2022. Meanwhile, CBS’s service will undergo a name change that better resembles the rest of CBS News’ products. Williams would fit at either place.
On the television side, Willaims would have to take a backseat. At 62 and with a strange history of lying, CNN is not pushing Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper to the side for Williams. Nor is CBS with Norah O’Donnell. Still, there is enough airtime that CNN and CBS could fit Williams somewhere if he demands a linear presence.
Willaims could also re-sign with MSNBC in a new role. Williams wants to leave the 11th Hour, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t consider re-signing with the company. NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, would provide Williams the same resources as the competing services. Moreover, MSNBC is more likely to find other TV opportunities for him.
For example, if MSNBC moves Nicolle Wallace to Maddow’s spot, as some NBC execs prefer, it creates an opening from 4-6 pm ET, Wallace’s current time slot. Williams would fill that role better than someone on MSNBC’s bench, one of the weakest in broadcasting.
Then there is MSNBC’s decision at 11 pm. Unless Williams changes his mind, the network has another spot to fill. I don’t have insight that the network would do this, but it must see the success of Greg Gutfeld at 11 pm. Gutfeld is now leading late-night. And while an MSNBC satirist would share the worldview of the other late-night hosts, theirs would have a stronger lead-in at 10 pm.
Here is a line I never thought I’d write in 2021: It’s Brian Williams is once again a story.