OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Popular MSNBC host Rachel Maddow recently returned from her nearly two-month hiatus to reveal that she’s going to be taking more time off and only be on air once a week.
Since then, Maddow has returned to the network on a new schedule. Instead of going on air every weeknight, she’s airing only one night per week to make time for other projects — and she just gave a big update on her new plans.
Specifically, Maddow is working on a narrative podcast about World War II, she said in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine shortly after announcing her hiatus.
The magazine reported:
Maddow talked about the project that had been consuming most of her bandwidth, a historical-narrative nonfiction podcast in the vein of Bag Man, except this time set in World War II–era America. She led me to a second-floor annex that doubles as [her partner] Mikula’s art studio and Maddow’s home office, with stacks of archival documents neatly arranged on the floor and a whiteboard scribbled with plot points.
The podcast, scheduled to debut this fall, was her first pitch under the Surprise Inside umbrella. “It’s an American history, underappreciated story,” said Maddow, “that has resonance for all these things we’re dealing with today—the threat of authoritarianism and the question of whether or not criminal law is the appropriate venue, and has the right constitutional powers, to handle those kinds of threats. It’s about journalism and journalistic ethics, and the ability of powerful people to manipulate American systems.” (She sold an accompanying book to Crown.)
Maddow’s other projects include another podcast, another book, “two potential movies and two potential TV shows,” one of which actually sounds a little more than potential. “It revolves around a group of women in post–World War II America in Washington, D.C.,” says Susan Rovner, the NBCUniversal executive who oversees the company’s television entertainment portfolio. Rovner said there was a decent chance the show could air in 2023 on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, which, to be honest, could use a high-wattage period drama if it expects to tussle with HBOMax and Netflix.
Maddow only hosting “The Rachel Maddow Show” once a week has failed to attract viewers, particularly in the critical demographic.
“MSNBC’s key 9 p.m. ET primetime weeknight slot has been mired in a ratings slump since The Rachel Maddow show shifted to a once-per-week format, according to Nielsen data. Since the start of the month, the left-leaning network has aired MSNBC Prime in the critical time slot four nights per week – with its star anchor Maddow taking the reins to host her show only on Mondays,” it was reported.
“That shift has coincided with a downturn in MSNBC’s primetime ratings – especially among viewers in a key advertising demographic. MSNBC Prime has averaged about 1.2 million viewers since its debut on May 3, down from the 1.7 million viewers Maddow averaged on her show before the shift to a once-per-week broadcast,” the report added.
“Among adults aged 25-54, a key segment for advertisers, “MSNBC Prime is averaging just 114,000 viewers per night. That number is a 47% decline from Maddow’s average of 214,000 prior to the change. Maddow’s once-per-week show has averaged about 2 million viewers since May 2, according to Nielsen data,” the report continued.
During a segment on her show last month, Maddow announced that starting in May, she will only host her show on the network once a week while she continues to work on “other projects.”
Essentially, Maddow is being paid $30 million per year and is only hosting her program once a week. And her show is tanking in the ratings, which is costing the network even more money.
Media critic Jeffrey McCall believes MSNBC executives are very worried about Maddow only hosting the show once a week and how the ratings have fallen off a cliff.
“MSNBC execs have to be concerned by this weak primetime showing. Maddow’s show has for a long time been a tent pole for MSNBC’s entire evening, delivering audiences for the 9 p.m. hour, but also boosting viewership in the hours before and after,” McCall said.
“With Trump out of office for almost a year and a half now, it is hard to generate ratings by raging about Trump. Further, with the multiple policy problems of the Biden administration, it is difficult to generate a left-leaning audience to watch the daily parade of bad news about inflation, crime, international turmoil, and so on, even when there is a left-of-center spin on those topics,” McCall said. “Those left-leaning viewers are choosing to just avoid news programming these days, even in venues that are sympathetic to the Biden administration.”
“Sensible viewers see more practical problems right in front of them every day in gas prices, inflation, sinking retirement accounts, baby formula shortages, and the list goes on,” McCall added.