Rachel Maddow & Keith Olbermann Lonely, Look for New Friend

Building on the relative popularity of their 8pm and 9pm slots--Olbermann & Maddow, respectively--MSNBC has begun the search for a personality to fill the currently unfilled 10pm slot. 10pm is currently devoted to a replay of Olbermann's "Countdown."

Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, is making 10 p.m. a priority now. In an interview on Tuesday in a studio on the Mall, hours after the inauguration of President Obama, Mr. Griffin said that the channel needed a third original show in its lineup.

“We can’t let this momentum stop,” he said.

Momentum, indeed.

The competition standards outlined by the New York Times in their article make everything a race for 2nd, with Fox News far out in front.

While MSNBC remains in third place among total viewers, it has averaged more young viewers (412,000) than CNN (394,000) in prime time since Election Day. Fox News has averaged 501,000 in the same demographic.

100,000 more viewers doesn't seem insignificant to me--it's 25% more viewers than either MSNBC or CNN. No matter, 20 January changed all of that, transforming MSNBC from administration antagonists to protagonists.

The talk of a 10 p.m. program highlights the shifting terrain for MSNBC, which now finds itself covering a Democrat in the White House. Mr. Olbermann, in particular, is known for delivering “special comments” that have savaged the Bush administration.

The network uses the tagline “the power of change” in commercials, in an allusion to Mr. Obama’s campaign. On Tuesday, Mr. Olbermann, Ms. Maddow and Chris Matthews, the host of “Hardball,” (which runs at 5 and 7 p.m.) sat in a warm studio seven blocks from the Capitol, where they had a prime seat for Mr. Obama’s swearing-in. Amid the daylong coverage, Mr. Matthews spoke openly about the channel’s political posturing.

“This is the network that has opened its heart to change,” Mr. Matthews said, calling the channel one “for the 21st century.”

Meanwhile, Fox News is still regularly savaged for their efforts to at least try to be "fair and balanced." Here, Matthews admits the obvious in acknowledging the very liberal bent of MSNBC. Journalistic criticism is noticeably absent.

It's also important to note another difference between Fox News & MSNBC: Whereas Fox News keeps their opinion and news reporting separate, at MSNBC, the pundits--Olbermann, Maddow, Matthews, etc.-- "report" the news. This practice blurs the line between news reporting and opinion bloviating--thus, MSNBC's many problems with (liberal) bias.

But what happens to a media outlet that becomes nothing more than the Obama administration's Pravda? It's one thing to snarkily criticize the opposition when they are in the White House, a whole other to gush like cheerleaders once your guy is in in the top spot.

My guess--and I don't think this is much of a stretch--is that people are savvier than Matthews, Olbermann, Maddow, and co. Americans will soon tire of MSNBC's ensconced cheerleaderism and turn to news outlets which don't un-skeptically parrot Obama administration talking points.