Alex Wagner’s debut this week as the brand new host of MSNBC’s 9 p.m. hour on Tuesdays by means of Fridays capped a 12 months’s value of hypothesis about who would land Rachel Maddow’s powerhouse time slot, now that she was stepping again from internet hosting 5 nights per week to pursue a slew of multiplatform inventive initiatives. For Wagner, it greater than validated her resolution to return to MSNBC seven years after the community canceled her earlier present. Within the interim, the 44-year-old newswoman had raised her profile by cohosting Showtime’s The Circus alongside John Heilemann.
And for Henry Reisch, Wagner’s agent at William Morris Endeavor—which has so many MSNBC purchasers that some joke the company runs the community—it was a serious coup in an extended profession spent cultivating TV-news expertise. Reisch, 63, cuts a decrease profile than Endeavor honchos Ari Emanuel and Mark Shapiro, who had been the driving forces behind Maddow’s latest megadeal. However Reisch has been at it eternally—2022 marks his thirty fifth 12 months within the enterprise—and he is aware of the quickly remodeling TV-news panorama in addition to anybody, which is why I used to be sport when Endeavor supplied him up for an interview.
After ditching his first job as a lawyer again in 1987, the Lengthy Island–born music fanatic obtained his begin within the mailroom of what was then referred to as the William Morris Company, rapidly climbing the ladder and assembling a roster of reports luminaries that included Bob Woodruff (now of ABC Information) and John Roberts (now of Fox Information). As we speak his purchasers collectively anchor 45 hours per week on MSNBC (Wagner, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Pleasure Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell, Stephanie Ruhle, Tiffany Cross) and 60 hours on CNBC (Jim Cramer, Joe Kernan, Kelly Evans, and others).
Though Reisch occurs to reside up the highway from me, he’s vacationing on Shelter Island this week, so we needed to do a video name. However that didn’t put a damper on our wide-ranging dialog, condensed and edited beneath, which covers every thing you’d hope for from a longtime trade insider: the backstory of Wagner’s deal, the decline of cable information, the way forward for streaming, the implosion of CNN+, and much extra.
Self-importance Honest: Inform me about how Alex Wagner obtained Rachel Maddow’s time slot.
Henry Reisch: Alex and I had been, within the late fall of 2021, attempting to determine what one other attention-grabbing step for her could be. She was doing unimaginable stuff with The Circus, however The Circus was as soon as per week and there was simply a lot taking place. So I started having conversations with varied networks. When she left MSNBC seven years in the past, she didn’t go away underneath one of the best of circumstances, however lots of the individuals at NBC had been individuals who she knew and revered and kind of saved relationships with. She was open. And so we made an association the place she was going to start contributing. In truth, we weren’t actually interested by the Rachel factor at that second. It was kind of like, let’s simply go do that and see what occurs. This was perhaps in January of 2022. She began doing lots of fill-in anchoring, and she or he began filling in for Rachel. However she and I weren’t actually having that dialog about the place it was gonna lead. It’s nearly like we didn’t wanna jinx something or be seen as going for it. We simply wished to be within the second. I didn’t even have conversations with MSNBC about it for a extremely very long time. Though this was actually, like, one of the best job in cable information.
So when did it begin to change into extra critical?
I’d say the very finish of Might or early June. A month earlier than it was introduced, I started having extra persistent conversations with them. Like, What are we doing right here? And simply so we’re clear, we wish this job! They had been very cautious about it, very measured. After which there got here the purpose the place I obtained the decision, they usually had been like, Let’s do it.
And if you say “they,” who had been you primarily coping with?
Jessica Kurdali, their head of expertise negotiations. She changed Elena Nachmanoff, who’d been in that function for many years.
Rachel stepping again from 9 p.m. appeared to arrange the deck chairs for a couple of of WME’s purchasers. Other than Alex, clearly, it looks like with much less Rachel, it made sense to double down on Joe and Mika because the community’s different tentpole and provides them that further hour within the morning. And with Morning Joe getting that fourth hour, it then appears logical that Stephanie Ruhle would transfer to 11 p.m. to fill Brian Williams’s slot.