Shepard Smith To Depart CNBC As Primetime Newscast Is Canceled

Shepard Smith will depart CNBC as his newscast will have its final episode later this month, ending a two-year effort to establish a presence for the high-profile anchor in the network’s nighttime hours.

CNBC president KC Sullivan wrote in a memo Thursday that The News with Shepard Smith will have its final episode later this month. Plans are for a new business program in that time slot at the start of 2023.

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“Decisions like these are not arrived at hastily or taken lightly,” Sullivan wrote. “I believe this decision will ultimately help to strengthen our brand and the value we provide our audiences.” Smith will not take on a different role at another NBCUniversal network, according to a source.

Smith was a high-profile hire for CNBC back in 2020 when, following his abrupt departure from Fox News the previous year, he was courted by other networks. The result was The News with Shepard Smith, an effort by CNBC to venture into the hyper-competitive news environment in the evening hours.

Smith pitched his show as a straightforward, unbiased alternative to cable opinion hosts, drawing on NBCU reporting strengths. But his show never broke out in the ratings, even as Sullivan noted that it increased the CNBC audience and delivered “the most affluent audience of any primetime cable news program.”

The cancellation of his show is yet another sign that cable viewers prefer personality-driven opinion. Last year, Fox News moved its newscast from the time slot and replaced it with Jesse Watters Primetime, the latter of which is among the top-rated cable news shows. CNN recently tried Jake Tapper in the 9 p.m. ET time slot, featuring newsier segments and big-get interviews like President Joe Biden, but the show has remained in third place to Fox News’ Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow/Alex Wagner combination. CNN said Wednesday that Tapper would be returning to his daytime show.

Smith’s show also was a bit of a departure for CNBC, as it had previously filled the slot with reality programming, given that many business news viewers tune out following the aftermath of the trading close.

Sullivan, who succeeded Mark Hoffman as CNBC’s leader earlier this year, wrote today that in a review of the business, the network needed to “prioritize and focus on our core strengths of business news and personal finance.”

“As a result of this strategic alignment to our core business, we will need to shift some of our priorities and resources and make some difficult decisions,” he wrote. He praised Smith’s newscast for quality journalism and wrote, “At a time when misinformation and disinformation is rampant, The News succeeded in providing audiences with the clearest understanding of the facts.”

The News with Shepard Smith has averaged 222,000 viewers to date, compared to 232,000 in 2021, according to Nielsen figures. In October, Fox Business Network topped CNBC in total viewers across all dayparts, drawing an average of 149,000 vs. 145,000. CNBC topped in the adults 25-54 demo, 32,000 to 16,000.

Smith’s representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Sullivan’s full note to staffers is below:

Team,

After spending time with many of you and closely reviewing the various aspects of our business, I believe we must prioritize and focus on our core strengths of business news and personal finance.  This is key in our efforts to continue building on our position as the number one global business news brand and to connect with new audiences of all kinds interested in their financial future.

We need to further invest in business news content that provides our audiences actionable understanding of the complex developments in global markets and the implications on institutions, investors and individuals.  During times of flux and uncertainty, our place in the lives of those we touch on-air, online and in person becomes even clearer, and more essential.

As a result of this strategic alignment to our core business, we will need to shift some of our priorities and resources and make some difficult decisions.

To that end, we have decided that The News with Shepard Smith will have its final newscast later this month.  The News set out on a bold mission of providing non-partisan, fact-based reporting on the most important stories of the day in the U.S. and around the world.  The quality journalism Shep and his team delivered each weeknight was exemplary and not lost on us or our 7pm audience.  The News increased CNBC’s 7pm viewership average and attracted the most affluent audience of any primetime cable news program.  At a time when misinformation and disinformation is rampant, The News succeeded in providing audiences with the clearest understanding of the facts.

In its place, we will be investing in a new Business News program that will launch in the beginning of 2023.  Decisions like these are not arrived at hastily or taken lightly.  I believe this decision will ultimately help to strengthen our brand and the value we provide our audiences.

Change is difficult, particularly when talented, good people are impacted.  Over the coming weeks, we will work across the News Group to identify other potential opportunities for many of the affected employees.  Thank you for your continued dedication and professionalism as we work through these changes.

KC

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