Ed Schultz will move back to weekdays in the 5 p.m. slot beginning Aug. 26, the network is set to announce on Monday. The move comes less than five months after The Ed Show moved from 8 p.m. Monday-Friday to 5-7 p.m. on weekends. That announcement last March was preceded by months of media speculation that Schultz was losing the leadoff slot in MSNBC’s primetime lineup. Schultz made the announcement on his show, saying there were “a number of personal and professional reasons” for the move to weekends.
“Ed has proven himself no matter where we’ve put him,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told The Hollywood Reporter.
The latest schedule shift displaces the first airing of Hardball With Chris Matthews. Currently Matthews’ show airs at 5 p.m. with a repeat at 7 p.m.; beginning Aug. 26, Hardball will have one run at 7 p.m. (Hardball‘s 7 p.m. show traditionally gets higher ratings than the 5 p.m. premiere). And Griffin expects those numbers to improve after the move. The move makes MSNBC’s primetime lineup all new for the first time since the network’s shift to a political focus. “We’ve grown a lot in the last decade,” said Griffin, adding that Schultz “laughed a little” when he called to ask him to move back to weeknights.
The move, added Griffin, “makes us whole in early prime. Obviously we had to make sure we had the right show. The Ed Show is the right show.”
The changes also comes as MSNBC is battling ratings declines in July and its worst second-quarter finish in primetime since 2009. Like it did in the second quarter, the NBCUniversal-owned cable news channel finished July behind Fox News Channel and CNN. In ratings for the total day, MSNBC was also bested by CNN sister channel HLN in the second quarter. With a newsy second quarter marked by the Boston Marathon bombings and the Jody Arias trial, CNN and HLN both saw ratings increases. CNN was up 50 percent in total viewers and 78 percent in viewers ages 25-54.
Meanwhile, Chris Hayes, who inherited Schultz’s 8 p.m. slot, has struggled along with the rest of the network. For the second quarter — Hayes’ first full quarter on the air — All In With Chris Hayes declined to MSNBC’s lowest demo number in the 8 p.m. slot since 2006.
Griffin acknowledged the show’s ratings struggles after it launched in the fallow period after the 2012 presidential election. But he also expressed confidence in Hayes. “It’s been very tough, there’s no question,” said Griffin, adding that the “intensity” of the 8 p.m. time period has been an “eye-opener” for Hayes. But Griffin expects All In‘s ratings to improve in the fall. “We know that ratings tend to go up after Labor Day, and they’ve got to start performing. There’s nobody who is trying to figure this out in a more analytical way than Chris. He wants to win.”
Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show did improve among total viewers in July, besting CNN in that measure but remaining behind in the demo. And Matthews last month ended his long-running syndicated Sunday show The Chris Matthews Show while signing a long-term contract extension with MSNBC earlier this year that keeps him at the network through the 2016 presidential election. In a statement announcing the end of the syndicated show, which bowed in 2002, Matthews noted: “There are limits to what I can do in a week.”