Ratings woes, Maddow arrangement put spotlight on corporate siblings NBC News, MSNBC: ‘Nothing but failure'

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NBCUniversal’s NBC News and sister network MSNBC have suffered through a variety of ratings issues as it prepares for its biggest star to take on a reduced workload that is expected to further erode viewership, prompting an insider to question where the accountability is at the media conglomerate. 

Rachel Maddow returned this week from a two-month hiatus that saw her show struggle as replacement hosts failed to maintain her audience, only to announce she would soon scale back her on-air duties once again.

MSNBC’s cash cow, who reportedly earns $30 million annually, told viewers she would only host “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday nights beginning next month despite her massive salary. The other four nights of the week will go to a rotating cast of fill-in hosts.

RACHEL MADDOW ANNOUNCES SHE’S ROLLING BACK MSNBC SHOW, WILL HOST ONLY MONDAY NIGHTS STARTING IN MAY

Maddow’s announcement left fans disappointed and forced media critics to admit MSNBC has a “problem” on its hands. 

MSNBC’s "The Rachel Maddow Show" struggled without its namesake host, but Rachel Maddow plans to scale back her workload. 

MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” struggled without its namesake host, but Rachel Maddow plans to scale back her workload. 

“MSNBC may find people to succeed Rachel Maddow, but it’s not clear yet that the network can replace her,” Variety’s Brian Steinberg wrote.

Even far-left “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert expressed disappointment with Maddow’s new schedule. “Rachel, you’re breaking your fans hearts, please don’t leave us with Lawrence O’Donnell,” he quipped on Tuesday.  

NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde, who started the gig in May 2020, is the high-powered executive who paid Maddow and oversees NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. He was previously chairman of Telemundo and was widely expected to add stability to the NBCUniversal’s news assets after predecessor Andy Lack was caught up in a laundry list of controversies, including a public feud with Ronan Farrow over the network’s handling of his Harvey Weinstein reporting. 

Conde has managed to avoid scandalous, legacy-tarnishing headlines that plagued Lack, but he has found his own set of issues along the way.  

“Cesar Conde should be fired for the embarrassing Maddow deal alone where she’s paid eight figures to barely work while MSNBC ratings crater. ‘Today’ show ratings are also abysmal— the worst in its history,” a former high-level employee of NBC News who is familiar with the company’s inner workings told Fox News Digital. 

NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde oversees NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde oversees NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

During the first quarter of 2022, MSNBC hemorrhaged an alarming portion of its audience compared to the first quarter of last year, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creating a historic news cycle. MSNBC averaged 712,000 viewers, shedding 48% of its audience compared to last year.

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MSNBC also lost 60% of its audience among the key news demographic of adults age 25-54, averaging only 87,000 compared to 217,000 last year. 

Perhaps the most alarming evidence of struggles under Conde is MSNBC’s issue attracting viewers among the category that pays the bills since President Biden took office. MSNBC has floundered in the key demo since Biden’s inauguration, averaging only 107,000 viewers to finish behind such networks as MTV, Nickelodeon, A&E, TV Land, Hallmark, Food Network, Adult Swim and Investigation Discovery. 

It’s not much better during primetime, as MSNBC averaged a dismal 184,000 demo viewers since Jan. 20, 2021, to finish behind a variety of networks such as FX, TLC and Bravo, despite Maddow actually working for the majority of that time. 

Puck’s Dylan Byers, a former NBC reporter, questioned the state of MSNBC in a scathing piece that pondered if the cable network was on “autopilot” as it struggles for relevancy. 

“What is MSNBC’s new value proposition in the post-Trump era? The network’s slogan is ‘This Is Who We Are,’ whatever that means, and yet it’s not at all clear who MSNBC is, or even who it is for. In the morning it’s a [Joe] Scarborough-run, personality-driven political-insider breakfast club. By day, it’s essentially straight-laced NBC News. By night, it’s a soon-to-be-Maddow-less smattering of self-righteous, academic liberals catering to the A.O.C. wing of the Democratic party,” Byers wrote. 

But MSNBC isn’t the only NBC asset with troubled ratings and a declining role in the media zeitgeist. 

ABC, CBS, NBC IGNORE HUNTER BIDEN SCANDALS, HAVEN’T MENTIONED HIS NAME IN 259 DAYS, STUDY SAYS

NBC’s "Nightly News with Lester Holt" has averaged 7.3 million viewers this year to trail the nightly audience of 8.7 million people who tune in to ABC’s "World News Tonight" by 19%. 

NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” has averaged 7.3 million viewers this year to trail the nightly audience of 8.7 million people who tune in to ABC’s “World News Tonight” by 19%. 

NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” has averaged 7.3 million viewers this year to trail the nightly audience of 8.7 million people who tune in to ABC’s “World News Tonight” by 19%. NBC’s evening newscast also trails ABC’s offering by 20% among the advertiser-coveted demo. 

NBC News’s flagship “Today” has struggled in 2022 compared to archrival “Good Morning America” on ABC. “Today” has averaged 3.1 million total viewers this year, compared to 3.4 million for ABC’s morning show, to trail “GMA” by 8% despite NBC airing the Winter Olympics in February. 

Last week, “GMA” had its largest weekly total viewer lead over NBC’s “Today” since February 2017, according to TVNewser. “Today” still manages to regularly top “GMA” among the key demographic, but has shed 14% of viewers in the critical category compared to last year.  

“There’s nothing but failure at NBCU News Group, yet Cesar is allowed to spend his time on the boards of Walmart and Pepsi as he feathers his resume for a bigger job,” the former NBC News employee said. 

Indeed, Conde sits on the board of directors for a pair of America’s largest corporations. He even had to recuse himself from weighing in on stories involving both companies. 

“Unprecedented for a news exec,” the former staffer added. 

NBC NEWS BOSS REVEALED AS BOARD MEMBER OF WALMART, PEPSI, VOWS TO ‘RECUSE’ HIMSELF FROM RELATED NEWS STORIES

NBC has continued to run favorable stories about the two companies, including an April 7 online piece headlined, “Walmart to offer new truck drivers $95K-$110K a year to combat shortage” that focuses on the average long haul driver earning roughly $56,000 per years while Walmart offers “nearly double that.” On Tuesday, NBC’s “Today” published a glowing review of Pepsi’s latest product, a maple syrup-flavored soda to coincide with an IHOP partnership.

Chuck Todd is among the hosts and reporters who appear on both NBC News and MSNBC. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Chuck Todd is among the hosts and reporters who appear on both NBC News and MSNBC. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Meanwhile, there have been reports that White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s rumored career move to MSNBC has irked NBC News journalists who don’t feel comfortable covering a future colleague. But a network insider told Fox News Digital that whoever leaked the alleged infighting simply wants people to think NBC News is a nonpartisan operation, and objecting to Psaki’s potential employment is a convenient way to get that message across.  

NBC News was recently accused of parroting White House talking points, saw its medical correspondent praise reinstated mask mandates and was called for out appearing to manipulate a photo of transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. 

NBCUniversal paints NBC News as a straight-news outlet, while MSNBC is openly progressive and loaded with left-wing opinion hosts. But multiple personalities like Chuck Todd and Stephanie Ruhle routinely appear across both channels.

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All ratings data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research.

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report. 

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