Love it or hate it, Fox News has a brand and that’s the single reason why it leads in the cable news ratings by a large margin. With news that MSNBC will shake up its primetime lineup to jump start its lagging ratings, it would behoove the network to think less about what personalities it puts on the air and more about what personality the network itself presents.
To be fair, MSNBC is second, while CNN is third. CNN has its own problems of which I’ve laid out before, but the point is that both of them are too concerned with the personalities they put on the air and not enough on what the whole network means.
The constant handwringing at MSNBC comes as viewership dropped 27% from February of last year and a whopping 48% among viewers age 25-54.
Basically, MSNBC is in a free fall.
So here’s MSNBC’s plan, according to Politico. All in With Chris Hayes will be moved, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton will now air on the weekends and the network is going to trot out new faces.
This is the hamster wheel MSNBC is running on and it won’t work. Changing out this show for that one, introducing a new host and coming up with a new catchy phrase to describe said show is more turns on the wheel.
Fox News, while sporting well-known hosts like Bill O’Reilly, could change out shows and see very little change in its viewership. That’s because its loyal audience knows what the network stands for and, therefore, they become loyal to the network, not the personalities, because of it.
What MSNBC must stand for does not have to be a spot on the political spectrum. In fact, I have long urged CNN that it must stand for the voice of reason but it keeps falling into the same trap with The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett OutFront and Anderson Cooper 360. Shows focused on personalities.
Those may be fine shows, but few tune in because CNN as a brand doesn’t mean anything.
What networks like MSNBC are doing is akin to BlackBerry trotting out new product features and wondering why it can’t make any inroads into Apple’s market share.
Start with the brand first, then it doesn’t matter who you put on the air.