MSNBC on Thursday appointed Kate Snow to anchor an afternoon news broadcast, nearly completing a daytime refocus of the struggling network back to news that will be fully on display next week when Brian Williams returns to the air for coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States.
Since Andy Lack returned this spring to take over the NBC News operation, he's spent much of his time plotting a reconfiguration of MSNBC into something similar to what was envisioned at its start two decades ago — a fully integrated arm of NBC News.
"This is a page turn for MSNBC and all of NBC News," Lack said on Thursday.
Gone are opinion-based programs with personalities like Ronan Farrow, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton and Alex Wagner, which Lack said were rejected by viewers. Instead, the daytime lineup will have news programs anchored by Snow, Andrea Mitchell, Thomas Roberts, Tamron Hall and Jose Diaz-Balart, with Williams moving in probably a couple of times a week as news warrants.
Snow, a veteran of both ABC News and CNN, will anchor each weekday from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by a one-hour political show hosted by "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd.
Lack hasn't changed the left-leaning evening lineup of Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell, saying his focus has been on the daytime.
The immediate wild card is how viewers react to Williams, the former NBC "Nightly News" anchor who was suspended in February and found to have misled the public about his role in news stories.
"I'm confident that he deserves a second chance and I'm confident that Brian is as good at his job as he was last year at this time," Lack said. "I think viewers will engage with good work. It's not going to happen overnight ... We're playing a long game here."
MSNBC announced an off-screen change that will seemingly make Williams more comfortable. Pat Burkey, executive producer of Williams "Nightly News" broadcast, will take over as top producer of MSNBC's afternoons, when Williams is most likely to appear. Another veteran producer, Izzy Povich, will produce MSNBC's morning coverage, with Rashida Jones overseeing all daytime coverage.
The network's refocus is risky given that television viewers are more likely to turn to Fox News Channel and CNN when news breaks, and that the Internet is much more of a news destination than when Lack initially set up MSNBC in the late 1990s. Lack said the upcoming presidential election provides an opportunity.
"If ever there was a year to give it a good shot, this is the year," he said. "If ever there was a time for MSNBC to be the place for politics, this moment in time never felt better."
He cited Mitchell's recent interview with Hillary Clinton as an example of how he hopes MSNBC will drive the news agenda during the day.
Phil Griffin, MSNBC's longtime chief executive, is remaining in his job. With Burkey moving over to MSNBC, NBC News promoted Sam Singal as the new executive producer of "Nightly News."