When Don Imus got dropped from MSNBC, the timeslot meandered for quite a while during which MSNBC tried to figure out what to do with the slot and what would work. It became pretty clear early on that Joe Scarborough would be fronting the program with Mika Brzezinski handling the news updates but the program rotated through a series of “sidekicks” in the third chair and the format seemed unfocussed. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the network becuase Imus had been building steam to the point that I would argue it contributed to the host changes on CNN’s American Morning. But minus Imus, the timeslot cratered and stopped being a threat to CNN. I was beginning to start thinking about taking odds on how much longer Morning Joe would last.
But then MSNBC moved to 30 Rock and Morning Joe changed. Dramatically. Clearly MSNBC had been waiting for the move to implement these changes but unless you’d been watching the show, and the ratings showed that not a lot of people were, you might not have noticed.
Before the move Joe was the center of attention. After the move, the airtime was more evenly divided amongst Joe, Mika, and Willie Geist. Joe is still the headliner but now you’ll see segments where it’s just Willie by himself. Or Mika by herself. Or just two of the three. The segments became tighter. More higher profile guests began appearing; for example Rush Limbaugh, Presidential Candidates and Celebrities. And the number of in studio guests shot up to, something that was a problem even when Imus was on the air.
Morning Joe’s numbers haven’t changed that much since the move to 30 Rock but it’s hardly the same program it was before the move. The question yet to be answered it whether this new and improved version of Morning Joe will gain traction and take MSNBC back to where it was when Imus was on the air.