Rachel Maddow Will Go Mondays Only on MSNBC

Rachel Maddow returned from a weeks-long hiatus Monday night only to tell MSNBC viewers that they will be seeing significantly less of her in weeks to come.

Starting in May, Maddow will scale back her duties at MSNBC, moving from what had been a five-days-per-week role to hosting only on Mondays. She is changing her schedule after signing a new pact with NBCUniversal that gives her aegis over a broader range of projects, including podcasts and films.

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”I do still have all these other irons in the fire, all these other things I’m working on that I want to bring to fruition, none of them are fast, all of them take a long time, and I’m still working on all of them,” Maddow said on her MSNBC program Monday evening. She delivered her remarks after returning from an absence that let her deal with some of those new content initiatives.

MSNBC did not announce any sort of successor for its 9 p.m. hour, which Maddow has anchored since September of 2008, when she used to have Keith Olbermann as a lead-in. Instead, the network will deploy a rotation of anchors. Ali Velshi and Alex Wagner have been among those who have filled in for Maddow in recent weeks.

Maddow may surface more frequently on occasion. She is expected to appear on other days of the week for special coverage and major news events, including the midterm elections.

Her departure from the other four days of the week leaves MSNBC with a new challenge to navigate: How does it keep viewers coming in to one of the most competitive hours on cable-news TV when the anchor who attracts so many of them isn’t appearing in regular fashion? The network must solve the puzzle just weeks before the start of the industry’s annual “upfront” ad-sales market, when US TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for their next cycle of programming.

MSNBC rivais have faced similar obstacles. CNN has had no official 9 p.m. anchor since it’s acrimonious split with Chris Cuomo. Fox News managed to drive new viewership to its 7 p.m. hour with a rotation of hosts after moving anchor Martha MacCallum to an earlier timeslot. Now opinion host Jesse Watters is winning bigger audiences at 7 p.m. where he has taken up permanent residence.

But 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. are very different hours in the business of cable news.

For the past several years, 9 p.m. has been a place for some of cable’s hottest talk, with Maddow vying with Cuomo and Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Some of that heat dissipated after the departure of former President Donald Trump.

Maddow’s show snared nearly $66.2 million in advertising in pandemic-ridden 2020, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending — only a little less than the $69.2 million it captured in 2019. The show’s top sponsors in 2021 have included advertisers like Procter & Gamble’s Tide and Mazda.

Maddow gets lumped in with other cable opinion hosts, but she cuts a different figure than many of them by focusing intently on very granular research. Few other anchors can lead off with a 22-minutes essay on a larger topic that often includes history and context along with the news of the day. Maddow does, and even hosts like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have expressed admiration for her abilities, if not for the politics she supports on her program.

MSNBC may find people to succeed Rachel Maddow, but it’s not clear yet that the network can replace her.

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