By Coby Eiss
MSNBC executives announced last week that the station would be making a change at the weekday 8PM time slot, replacing Ed Schultz with Chris Hayes. Hayes, host of MSNBC’s weekend program “UP with Chris Hayes,” will take over Mr. Schultz’s hour beginning on April 1st. At 34, Hayes will become the youngest political primetime host in the country, expediting his path towards journalism superstardom.
The station is making the switch in an attempt to increase ratings among the younger generation, specifically people between the ages of 25 and 54. In 2012, only about 25% of Schultz’s viewers were in that demographic, while his Fox News counterpart Bill O’Reilly received a much larger percentage. The insertion of Hayes into the primetime should help relieve this problem as he is a protegé of Rachel Maddow, who at 39 also attracts a much younger audience. Maddow currently holds the highest ratings in the country at her 9PM time slot, beating out CNN’s Piers Morgan and Fox’s Sean Hannity.
Hayes originally came on board at MSNBC in 2011 as a part-time contributor; he was pursued by the station as a result of his success writing for The Nation. After impressing MSNBC executives by filling in for Maddow in 2011, he was given his own weekend show later that year. The show, “UP with Chris Hayes” has received much praise from critics over the last year and a half, due to its long and thoughtful debates that are seldom had on weekend network shows, let alone primetime weekday telecasts.
The “Ed Show” has been on the air since 2009, and been at the 8PM time slot since 2011, when The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell moved back to its original 10 PM airtime. Schultz has found a niche focusing on the working class of America, priding himself upon his dedication to the issues that affect middle-income families. Hayes has stated that he will continue to keep labor issues a fundamental element of the 8PM hour, but it can be expected that social issues will regularly take the lead in his nightly rundown.
Schultz informed his viewers on March 13th that he would be moving to 5-7PM on the weekends starting in April. While his rival pundits have classified this time slot as “no man’s land,” Schultz hopes to grow the early-evening weekend fan base. As for Hayes’ 8-10 AM weekend spot, the station announced on March 18th that “The Cycle” co-host Steve Kornacki would be taking the anchor position at “UP.” Kornacki has been on his panel-oriented show since it began in June of 2012. He is also a senior writer at Salon, an online (liberally-slanted) publication.