Chris Matthews eyeing return to NBC

Considering offer to stay on as 'Hardball' host

NEW YORK -- MSNBC may find out soon whether "Hardball" host Chris Matthews returns to the channel, which has been invigorated in the ratings.

Matthews is said to be considering an offer from NBC to remain as host of "Hardball," a job he's held for more than a decade, or to return to his native Pennsylvania to run for the U.S. Senate against GOP incumbent Arlen Specter.

There are indications that a decision could come soon, sometime before Inaugural Day. But MSNBC president Phil Griffin declined late last week to say whether that's true or not.

"I've talked to Chris. I think he's going to be here for a long time," Griffin said. "I want him to be here for a long time." Griffin said that there would be "clarity" soon.

Matthews through a spokesman declined an interview. The 63-year-old Matthews is believed to make roughly $5 million a year and has hosted "Hardball" since 1997, first on CNBC and then on MSNBC. He also hosts "The Chris Matthews Show," a Sunday morning public affairs program that is syndicated by NBC Universal.

Meanwhile, MSNBC is in the strongest position it's been in years. It's likely to finish up 2008 as cable's fastest-growing network in the ratings, and as well as its best ratings for many shows like "Hardball" and "Countdown," as well as the newcomer, "Rachel Maddow Show."

"Hardball," for instance, has been up 89% in total viewers in its 7 p.m. showing to 804,000 compared to 2007 and logged a similar increase among adults 25-54.