Brian Williams leaving NBC, MSNBC after nearly 30 years

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

Former “NBC Nightly News” and current “The 11th Hour” anchor Brian Williams is leaving NBC News and MSNBC at the end of 2021.

“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another. There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere,” he said in a statement.

Williams current role on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” came about after a 2015 demotion off the “Nightly” anchor desk after an investigation found that he exaggerated and misrepresented stories from experiences during Middle East and Hurricane Katrina reporting.

He was suspended without pay and after delicate negotiations, was allowed to stay with the NBC family, but was made “breaking news” anchor for its cable network, MSNBC.

After serving in that role in a variety of formats, he was given “The 11th Hour” in 2016, a show named for its 11 p.m. eastern air time and its format as an end of the day wrap of the day’s news and politics.

Some insiders claimed Williams fancied himself a late night or talk show host, especially after the network launched “Rock Center” for him, which he anchored along with “Nightly” starting in 2011.

The show was canceled in 2013 after jumping around the schedule and tinkering with its format.

Williams first joined NBC in 1993 as chief White House correspondent and anchor of weekend “Nightly.” Prior to that he worked in New York and Philadelphia and other markets.

When then “Nightly” anchor Tom Brokaw announced his retirement from the show in 2004, Williams was already primed in the wings, having become a familiar face to viewers thanks to his role as primary substitute for Brokaw and anchor of the weekend editions.

He also helped NBC launch MSNBC in 1996, anchoring several programs on the network, including its signature primetime newscast “The News with Brian Williams.”

A source told CNN’s Brian Stelter that NBC did make Williams an offer to renew his contract, but he declined it.

MSNBC is facing a tough challenge in 2022 when its current star Rachel Maddow will stop hosting a daily show for the network, leaving execs scrambling to find a viable replacement.

There had been some speculation that Williams could fill that role in some way or at least move off the 11 p.m. hour thanks to a schedule reshuffle.

“Following much reflection, and after 28 years with the company, I have decided to leave NBC upon the completion of my current contract in December.”

As for next moves, Williams did mention he will “pop up” somewhere else in the future, but CNN sources say he hasn’t started any formal discussions with rival networks.

Williams also seemed to suggest that “The 11th Hour” may live on after he leaves.

While the source said not to expect a Williams related announcement anytime soon, he likely could have a wide variety of options in front of him.

He could follow fellow MSNBC-er Kasie Hunt and join streamer CNN+ before or after it launches in 2022.

Another possibility, perhaps the most glaring, is a possible return to the evening news anchor desk as a replacement for “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell.

While no sources have confirmed Williams is even being considered, others sources have told multiple outlets that CBS may be looking to replace O’Donnell at the end of her current deal thanks to dismal ratings and a desire to cut costs by moving the broadcast back to New York.

The network’s struggling “CBS Mornings” is another possibility and CBS could also sweeten the deal by giving Williams a spot on “60 Minutes.”

However, no sources have confirmed any of these scenarios.

Williams, who managed to keep most of the momentum NBC built up in the ratings after taking over from Brokaw, could be viewed as a prime candidate to turn around CBS’s fortunes.

It’s also possible he could land at another cable news network or streaming service, though there aren’t many open places on schedules for him at this point.

Williams could also strike out on his own, perhaps launching his own media company and getting involved in podcasts, streaming or other digital media.

Although the numbers had begun to falter when Williams was still at the anchor desk, it was after Lester Holt took over “Nightly” that the show’s ratings dipped below “ABC World News Tonight” amid an overall downfall of network evening news viewers.

While Williams has the baggage from being forced out at “Nightly,” it’s possible that a rival network could feel he’s “paid his dues” and those incidents are far enough in the past to make him a viable candidate for a new anchor role.