For four nights a week, MSNBC has officially re-branded the most critical hour of its primetime lineup, with the newly named “MSNBC Prime” airing in place of “The Rachel Maddow Show” that has long aired in that timeslot.
Maddow announced last month that she would host her show only on Monday nights beginning this week, as she focuses on other projects like a planned MSNBC podcast and producing a Ben Stiller-directed movie about disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew, based off her book “Bag Man.”
MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, who frequently filled in for Maddow during a hiatus from her show between January and April, announced the new program to viewers Tuesday night, after Chris Hayes noted the show title change during his handoff. Maddow’s production team will also work on “MSNBC Prime.”
“As you know, Rachel Maddow’s show now airs weekly on Mondays,” Velshi said. “So, I want to welcome you to ‘MSNBC Prime.’ This show will air in this hour Tuesday through Friday. It will still be produced by Rachel’s crack team, and I will be hosting all this week.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“And what a week it’s turning out to be,” he said, before pivoting to coverage of nationwide protests following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
An MSNBC spokesperson told Fox News Digital the show would use a “rotating group of hosts” for “MSNBC Prime.” Ayman Mohyeldin, who like Velshi currently hosts a weekend MSNBC program, also guest-hosted for Maddow during her hiatus.
Maddow’s absence from much of her show leaves MSNBC in a tough spot, as the liberal host has been a mainstay of its primetime lineup for over a decade and by far its highest-rated figure. In her frequent absences this year, the show’s ratings have slumped, along with the rest of the network’s. From April 4 to 8, she had her worst-rated week since 2016, averaging about 1.3 million viewers. During Maddow’s absence, her show averaged 1.6 million viewers compared to 3.1 million for Fox News’ “Hannity,” which airs in the same 9 p.m. ET timeslot.
Speculation is rampant over who could potentially replace Maddow on a permanent basis; somewhat ironically, one voice being floated is Nicolle Wallace, the rabidly anti-GOP host of “Deadline: White House” who was once communications director for the George W. Bush White House. Maddow rose to prominence during the Bush administration as a stalwart of liberal talk radio.
2020 Democratic presidential candidate and founder of Venture for America, Andrew Yang, and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi participate in the "Climate Forum 2020," at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2019.
Fourth Watch newsletter editor Steve Krakauer said that Maddow’s show was essentially “gone for good” and the network badly needed a permanent solution in that hour.
“The smart money is on Nicolle Wallace, which shows how warped the media landscape currently is – a longtime Bush and McCain flack is now a #Resistance hero [who could be] holding down MSNBC primetime,” he told Fox News Digital.
“It’s unlikely MSNBC pivots back to news in the timeslot – there’s too much riding on keeping the liberal audience happy,” he added.
MSNBC’s left-wing evening lineup had been stable until recently; along with Maddow at 9 p.m. ET, Hayes has hosted “All In” at 8 p.m. ET since 2013, and Lawrence O’Donnell has held the 10 p.m. hour down since 2011. But Brian Williams, former host of “The 11th Hour” at 11 p.m. ET, exited the network late last year after taking over the slot in 2016, and Maddow’s absence for 80 percent of the week has also upended things.
Jen Psaki is soon set to host her own show on NBC’s streaming service Peacock once she leaves the Biden White House as press secretary, in what could be a try-out for hosting an MSNBC program of her own. In the meantime, she will also appear on MSNBC as a commentator.
“Jen Psaki is obviously a possibility, but she’s likely too raw to jump in right away,” Krakauer said of her filling Maddow’s slot.
David Rutz is a senior editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @davidrutz.