MSNBC Axes Ed Schultz, Alex Wagner and 'The Cycle'

Phil Griffin - H 2014
AP Images

Phil Griffin - H 2014

'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd will anchor a daily program at 5 p.m.

MSNBC president Phil Griffin on Friday informed staffers that he is cancelling three afternoon programs: roundtable discussion show The Cycle as well as Now With Alex Wagner and The Ed Show, hosted by Ed Schultz. Friday, July 31, will be the final show for all three. Schultz and Cycle hosts Krystal Ball, Abby Huntsman and Toure will leave the network, while Wagner will stay on to cover the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Chuck Todd, who earlier this year was made host of Meet the Press, will host a daily program at 5 p.m.

Major changes have been expected across MSNBC's dayside programming. And Griffin's memo notes that in September, the network will unveil a new 9 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule that stresses breaking news. In the mean time, various MSNBC anchors will fill in during the day. And deposed Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who is likely to make his MSNBC debut in September, is expected to play a key role in the makeover. Griffin did not mention Williams in his memo, but one scenario circulating at NBC News, is that Williams would get an hour to anchor.

MSNBC has been struggling with sinking ratings since the second Obama term. And new NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, who has oversight of NBC News and MSNBC, is leading the changes at MSNBC. 

MSNBC saw marginal gains for some programs for the July ratings period. Morning Joe, The Rachel Maddow Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In With Chris Hayes and The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell posted gains in total viewers compared to the previous month.

But network executives are still struggling to redefine the network's identity after ratings cratered during President Obama's second term following consistent growth during his first term as well as the George W. Bush presidency. 

Griffin's full memo is below:


I’m writing to share a number of changes we’re making as we build a new daytime lineup with the best live, breaking news coverage on television.

As of this Friday, The Cycle, Now with Alex Wagner and The Ed Show will air their final shows.

Alex Wagner will stay with MSNBC and play a key role in our political coverage as we head into the 2016 election. And Ari Melber will continue in his role as Chief Legal Correspondent. But we will be parting ways with some friends – Ed Schultz, Krystal Ball, Abby Huntsman and Toure will be leaving MSNBC. Please join me in thanking them for their numerous contributions over the past several years, and in wishing them great success.

Beginning in a few weeks, Chuck Todd will bring his unmatched brand of political insight and analysis back to MSNBC with a daily one-hour program. That show will air weekdays at 5pm.

I know you read press reports last week speculating about these changes. I hope you can understand that we were not able to confirm at that point because we had not yet finalized many of the decisions I’m sharing with you today, and we hadn’t yet spoken directly with the people involved.

In the coming weeks, as we complete our plans to create a new look and flow for our dayside programming, our 3pm to 6pm hours will begin the pivot towards live, breaking news coverage – with interim hosts from among our very talented ranks. And then, in September, we’ll unveil a 9am to 5pm schedule driven by dynamic coverage of breaking news events that are shaping the day.

Change can be hard. There’s no doubt it’s been a difficult time, but we have exciting opportunities ahead.