Brian Williams is getting a new — and for now temporary — late-night news program, his first regular time slot since joining MSNBC.
Starting in September, the former “NBC Nightly News” anchor will helm a live wrap-up of the day’s political coverage at 11 p.m. ET. According to an MSNBC executive not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, the program will run through the presidential election in November.
Williams was assigned to the NBC-owned cable news channel in September after serving a six-month suspension without pay and losing his “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair. An internal investigation found that Williams made misstatements on and off the air about his reporting experiences during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
NBC News did not dismiss Williams, but naming him breaking news anchor for MSNBC was a demotion from his lofty stature as the face of its network evening newscast. Williams had a nightly program on MSNBC during its nascent days in the 1990s, a period in which he was groomed to take over “NBC Nightly News” from Tom Brokaw.
In the role of breaking news anchor on MSNBC, Williams led the coverage on such ongoing stories as the terrorist attack in Nice, France, the police shootings in Dallas and the attempted military coup in Turkey. He has also been a part of MSNBC’s coverage of political conventions and presidential primary results.
Williams has anchored 245 hours of MSNBC coverage since his return. But the 11 p.m. program will be the first venue where viewers can find him on a regular basis.
Williams’ move to MSNBC coincided with a decision by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack to move the channel away from progressive political commentary during the day and more toward breaking news coverage. MSNBC has lagged in the ratings behind Fox News and CNN in recent years.
NBC News has attributed MSNBC’s recent ratings growth to the strategic shift. While all three major cable news channels have seen a boost from interest in the presidential campaign, MSNBC saw the most growth on a year-to-year basis in July, with a gain of 117% in its daytime audience compared to 88% for CNN and 47% for Fox News. Williams anchored 86 hours of coverage during the month.