This morning MSNBC ran a half hour special on the Oklahoma City bombing which featured a rebroadcast of a Rita Cosby interview with Josh Nichols. I assume this special will get repeated later on today at some point, as the previous specials this week have.
A pattern is starting to emerge here with these specials. It seems that MSNBC is centering these specials around stories that aired on their primetime shows. So far the specials have relied heavily on material which aired on Live & Direct and The Abrams Report. Though the specials and their subsequent re-airing later on in the day certainly could look like a budget cutting move because it means one hour less of live news to produce, this may be something else entirely. Namely, this could be another way of trying to promote primetime in the daytime.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy. On the one hand it exposes primetime programming to the daytime audience. Maybe there is internal research at MSNBC that shows that the daytime audience isn’t the audience that tunes in for primetime? This explanation would make sense if you take into consideration Rick Kaplan’s stated objective in the re-airing of Countdown at 9 am scheduled to start next Tuesday.
On the other hand, it presents a problem for MSNBC covering live news as it breaks. The daytime is when the press conferences most often happen. There are White House briefings, Pentagon briefings, Congressional pressers, Presidential addresses, etc, etc… which are happening all the time. Blocking off half hour chunks several times a day for topical specials makes covering these stories more difficult. Do you interrupt the special or not if news breaks? If MSNBC finds itself breaking in on these specials a lot, then what’s the point of having the specials if you can’t air them? Conversely, if MSNBC doesn’t break in so that they can air the specials in full, then how can they call themselves a news channel? It’s almost a no-win scenario for MSNBC to do the specials.
And then there is the problem that these specials are not advertised in advance. The whole point of doing a special is to bring viewers in. You can’t do that if you don’t advertise well in advance of the special. Waiting until an hour or less beforehand as MSNBC is doing is self-defeating.
This is why I’m not willing to dismiss the idea that this is all related to budgetary constraints…because the way MSNBC is going about this doesn’t make a lot of sense.
This morning a tipster wrote in that MSNBC did not cover the Bush speech with the Chinese delegation when it started. Instead it was featuring a Rita Cosby piece on the Duke University scandal followed by a Healthwatch segment on the Mumps. It wasn’t until the protestor appeared that MSNBC turned to the coverage. FNC on the other hand was all over the event. In fact they were extremely early as they even covered the musical parts of the event before the speeches started. On CNN, they brought in their business analysts to discuss China’s economics. But the thing that apparently got MSNBC interested in covering the story was a protestor.