End of a Chapter: Brian Williams parting ways with NBC and MSNBC

Brian Williams is parting ways with the cable news after 28 years

Brian Williams Leaving msnbc

Veteran anchor, Brian Williams is parting ways with the cable news after 28 years and is leaving on his own accord. He became an indispensable part of MSNBC after a critical on-air gaffe in 2015 at “NBC Nightly News” leading to his removal from his program. 

His next steps are currently unknown, whether he still plans to continue it. Williams said in his goodbye note, “This is the end of a chapter and a beginning of another. There are many things I want to do, and Iโ€™ll pop up again somewhere. For the next few months, Iโ€™ll be with my family, the people I love most, and the people who enabled my career to happen. I will reflect on the kindness people have shown me, and I will pay it forward.”  

Williams’ decision is on grounds with his feeling that he has given all he could in his long career and eagerly wants to take a break, later seeing what other possible options are available. A source familiar with the matter suggested that Williams didn’t want to keep the same job just to do it, but felt he had a choice to walk when he was still at the top of his game. 

Rashida Jones, President of MSNBC, said in a memo, “Brianโ€™s time at NBC has been marked by breaking countless major stories, attracting leading journalists and guests to his programs, and most especially, great resiliency. He has built a fiercely loyal following for โ€˜The 11th Hourโ€™ and we and our viewers will miss his penetrating questions and thoughtful commentary.”

With Williams departure, MSNBC is in the midst of scheduling issues. NBCUniversal is currently preparing a new content portfolio with Rachel Maddow, the linchpin of its primetime schedule. Maddow could pull back on her duties at 9 p.m, “The Rachel Maddow Show”, depending on the nature of the deal.

Some potential candidates could take over her primetime hour, one being Wallace, who is currently leading the cable’s late-afternoon coverage and is a favorite in the corporate suite at NBCU. She is reluctant to take on the role since that would prevent her from seeing her young son for a good portion of the day.

MSNBC is struggling with viewer declines after the 2020 elections. This is something commonly seen in other cable-news networks, where the interest fades, especially after a presidential run-off. However, media companies are exploring a different kind of era, where people are looking to seek news from videos off their phones, a clip on social media, or streaming FAST channel on a connected TV. 

In October, MSNBC’s primetime viewership on average among adults between ages 25-54 was off by 71%, according to Nielsen, whereas CNN’s declined by 81% and Fox News Channel’s declined by 65%.

Williams just since before the 2016 presidential election hosted MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour”, the cable’s final original show of the evening and has often been the anchor during election coverage and big breaking events. 

Williams has been one of the best-known NBCU’s personnel, appearing on late-night talk shows and even “Saturday Night Live”. He abandoned all those activities after a “Nightly News” broadcast on January 30, 2015, on a reporting trip to Iraq, where he repeatedly claimed that a Chinook helicopter he was traveling on was hit by enemy fire and forced down. The claim was challenged by soldiers who were aware of the actual incident and complained, leading to Williams’ suspension for six months and replacing him at “Nightly News” with Lester Holt.

In his return, he was set on reclaiming his career and reputation. “The 11th Hour”, included beat reporters and attorneys who knew inside-out of the topics they were discussing. Williams’ hosting stood out, with his sophisticated approach to polishing his guest’s reputation and steering the conversation into uneven, choppy waters without allowing anyone to submerge it in hot talk. MSNBC used this format, dispatching Williams producer, Pat Burkey, to oversee Wallace late-afternoon program called “Deadline: White House” which stuck to educated discussion of that day’s events. Williams’ hard work paid off when NBCUniversal allowed Williams to take the stage at its annual upfront presentation to advertisers alongside other news colleagues, stating the obvious message: “All is forgiven”.

After Williams news gained popularity, other cable news launched similar news hours during the same time. 

Williams has no shortage of places to go, with CNN being aggressively hiring to launch a new streaming counterpart to its cable network. They have also poached several NBCU news staff in recent months. CBS News meanwhile is busy bringing its streaming service, CBSN.