NBC Universal shook up its MSNBC cable-news channel on and off the screen, naming the anchor of “The Abrams Report” and an NBC News veteran to management positions.
Dan Abrams, 40 years old, will quit his legal-analysis show to become MSNBC’s general manager. He will report to Phil Griffin, 49, an NBC News senior vice president who oversees the “Today” show and is adding oversight of MSNBC to his duties. The pair take over from Rick Kaplan, who was ousted last week as MSNBC president after failing to lift the channel from a distant third place in the cable-news-ratings race.
“This management restructuring will enable [MSNBC] to build on the momentum it already has,” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News.
NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., has been trying to boost MSNBC and integrate its operations more closely with NBC News since December when it moved to dissolve its partnership with Microsoft Corp. The two companies launched MSNBC in 1995.
Ratings have improved, but not much. MSNBC’s average prime-time audience so far this year is up 23% compared with the year-earlier period, according to Nielsen Media Research. But the channel still trails News Corp.’s Fox News Channel and Time Warner Inc.’s CNN. In prime time, MSNBC averages 143,000 viewers ages 25 to 54, the group most important to advertisers. CNN reaches about 201,000, a decline of about 22% from last year, while Fox reaches 375,000, a drop of about 24% from 2005.
While the selection of Mr. Griffin was expected — he previously served as an MSNBC vice president — Mr. Abrams was a surprise choice. An intensely competitive news personality, Mr. Abrams has been a reporter and anchor at MSNBC since 1997 but has little management experience. Mr. Griffin cited Mr. Abrams’s intimate knowledge of MSNBC and “infectious enthusiasm” as key factors in his promotion.