Struggling MSNBC, which only a few months ago was touting opinionated talk shows as its strategy for drawing viewers in the evening, now appears to be planning a different tack for at least one hour per night, with the launch of an interview program with Deborah Norville as host.
The new show, people familiar with the situation said, will go head to head with CNN’s interview program “Larry King Live” and Fox News Channel’s political talk show, “Hannity & Colmes,” seen at 3 p.m. weekdays in Los Angeles. While Fox is the top-rated cable news network, recently the long-running King has dominated that hour.
MSNBC, a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft, declined to comment on plans for the new show, which is already trying to line up guests and is expected to be announced after the start of the new year.
Norville, who is expected to tape her MSNBC interviews in advance, will remain the anchor of the syndicated newsmagazine “Inside Edition,” as well, according to sources. An “Inside Edition” spokeswoman declined to comment, except to say that Norville is under contract through the 2004-05 season. Norville couldn’t be reached.
The move will be a return to NBC for Norville, who in 1990 briefly replaced Jane Pauley as co-host of the “Today” show. Norville left the next year, after she was perceived by viewers as having pushed aside the beloved Pauley. That opened the door for Katie Couric to become the show’s co-host.
The latest strategy change for MSNBC comes as the network languishes in third place.
A year ago, the network had high hopes for a nightly program with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura as host. That show never made it on the air, and most recently, MSNBC filled the time slot with a legal program.
Ventura tried a Saturday program, instead, but MSNBC canceled it last week, after two months. Ventura will remain a commentator for the network.