Alex Wagner to replace Rachel Maddow four days a week
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
Wagner will be hosting a yet-to-be-named show in the 9 p.m. eastern hour four days a week starting Aug. 16, 2022.
MSNBC has already been branding the hour as “MSNBC Prime” on days when Maddow is out, the result of a contract renegotiation that let Maddow cut back to a weekly show.
Ultimately, MSNBC reportedly agreed to pay her $30 million a year to essentially work less — appearing only once a week for “The Rachel Maddow Show” during one of the most competitive hours in cable news. It also calls for her to continue to anchor major political coverage for the network outside of those days as needed.
Maddow’s show was one of the strongest competitors to Fox’s conservative cable lineup that dominates ratings, so agreeing to let her appear once a week could be seen as a signal of just how valuable she is to the network.
Meanwhile, Wagner will now be facing an intense amount of pressure to deliver in the ratings. Since switching to the “Prime” format, ratings have been down as much as 30% for the rotating cast of co-hosts that network has been experimenting with.
MSNBC reportedly considered a wide variety of options to take over Maddow’s slot Tuesday through Friday, including ones inside and outside of the network, though it did not provide specific details.
The network has several hosts, including ones who regularly fill in for Maddow, who likely could have slid into the spot easily (some of them notably even attempt to replicate Maddow’s speaking tone and cadence when hosting for her), but they also already have full-time jobs and moving them would cause further disruptions in the schedule.
While MSNBC still trails Fox’s conservative cable channel in the ratings, it still typically comes in ahead of CNN and often performs well in key demographics, so changing the schedule too much could be a risk the network isn’t willing to take.
In recent years, significant changes to the schedule include expanding “Deadline: White House” to two hours and adding another hour to “Morning Joe.” In addition, various blocks of “MSNBC Reports” have been given new anchors. “Reports” hours have also had minor tweaks made to runtimes and timeslots, especially on the weekends as the network debuted new weekend programming. MSNBC still has an hour of “Reports” to assign an anchor to permanently as well after Craig Melvin left to focus on “Today.”
“The 11th Hour” host Brian Williams left NBC, to be replaced by Stephanie Ruhle, while Chris Jansing was elevated to afternoon anchor. “MTP Daily” also left the network for streamer NBC News Now, where it become “Meet the Press Now.”
It’s inevitable her numbers will be compared to Maddow’s regularly, even though having a weekly show is not unique, though having it air on Monday as opposed to a weekend night, especially in such a prominent primetime slot, is more unique.
Wagner’s views are well known as being progressive — in line with all other MSNBC primetime hosts — so viewers likely won’t see any major shifts in topics covered during the evening hours, which MSNBC programs under the banner of what it calls analysis and perspective programming.
Wagner, 44, is the daughter of a mother who immigrated from Myanmar and American-born father. Assuming other hosts and anchors remain the same, she will be the only Asian American host of a primetime cable news show, though not the first.