MSNBC president Phil Griffin reacted to a month of disappointing ratings in a conversation with Variety's senior TV critic, Brian Steinberg.
With the exception of "The Rachel Maddow Show," the network's consistently highest-rated program, many MSNBC shows were bumped down from their usual spots and out of the top 20 programs. The network, which had effectively carved its place as the number two cable news network behind Fox News but above CNN, now finds itself in a more precarious position. And with Jeff Zucker revamping CNN and adding new and different programming, MSNBC's spot in second place is threatened.
In an interview with Steinberg, Griffin said, “There has been an inordinate amount of big, breaking news, and that is, honestly, when CNN does well. It’s pure muscle memory." He also noted that MSNBC's ratings thrived during the 2012 election year when viewers could tune in for 24/7 political analysis. Ratings are bound to drop in a non-election year.
The ratings trouble MSNBC is currently experiencing could be why Zucker has so adamantly pushed to "expand the definition of news" at CNN. At Fortune's Brainstorm Tech 2013 conference in Aspen last month, Zucker discussed a key change he has implemented at the network. He said:
You know, when I came in, one of the slogans at CNN was that "CNN equals politics." I put a line through that and said that CNN does not equal politics. Obviously, politics is a huge part of what we do and will continue to be. But really, [it] has to be that CNN is greater than politics. You know, we have two domestic cable network competitors who are basically about politics all the time. What I want CNN to be about is all of the news. And all of the news is not just what's happening in Washington or in the Middle East, but it's also about entertainment and business and sports and culture and things that we all talk about, but not just equals politics.