Being at work I don’t get to watch wall to wall cable news coverage so I only caught bits and pieces of MSNBC’s format change today. It wasn’t until I got home and checked the ReplayTV that the full extent of MSNBC’s changes became apparent.
Today MSNBC more or less became CNN Headline News from Noon to 4 pm ET, only slightly more stagnant than HLN is (and that is a tall order). The usual HLN traits were all there for you to see…
- Headline rundowns at the top of the hour, quarter hour, bottom of the hour, and three quarter hour.
- An abscence of interviews (though HLN usually manages to get one in for each half hour)
- A reliance on packaged material and live shots that don’t change story wise from half hour to half hour unless there’s been news made.
- A rigid format with regularly scheduled business, weather, and sports segments. Though in MSNBC’s case there’s no sports anchor.
Gone are the interviews with newsmakers and analysts. No in studio guests. No “what’s it all mean” stories and analysis. Everything that makes HLN dull and not “must see TV”, where it doesn’t matter when you tune in as you’ll see the same thing, was on display, except it wasn’t on HLN. It was on MSNBC. Contrast this with what proceeded the previous four hours where there were interviews, in depth analysis, reaction, and stories that wouldn’t fit in the later “wheel” format MSNBC put on display today. The former gave viewers reason to stay watching. The latter gave viewers reason to change channels once the headlines had been covered.
If MSNBC proceeds with this format, it might as well resign itself to the idea that it is no longer a news channel in the afternoon. It will have become a wheel channel where no news is made and stories are regurgitated ad nauseum for hours. Just like HLN. And it further undermines MSNBC in its battle for relevance with CNN and FNC.
I’m not arguing that there isn’t a place for this type of format. Indeed, a one hour program of this type would be a good idea and distinguish itself from the rest of MSNBC’s day. But three to four hours worth is too much and does not properly serve the viewer who wants to get past the headlines and, incidentally, already has one channel to turn to that’s well known for this type of news, HLN.