‘Chris Matthews Show’ Leads Pack

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Chris Matthews has made plenty of guests sweat during interviews. Now he’s doing the same to network news roundtables.
After one season in syndication, the half-hour weekend program “The Chris Matthews Show,” which NBC News produces and NBC Enterprises distributes, has proved to be the fastest-growing show in syndication, a significant feat considering the hefty problems facing the weekly market.
The show, which features Mr. Matthews leading a roundtable of journalists and pundits as they dissect the stories of the week, has been renewed for a sophomore season on the NBC-owned TV stations and many others. Mr. Matthews also continues to host MSNBC’s nightly political analysis series “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” When “The Chris Matthews Show” debuted in September 2002, the series pulled a slim 1.0 national household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. But time and tinkering helped the show bubble its way up to a 2.2 season high. The series now averages a 1.6 season-to-date.
That’s good enough to pass “Fox News Sunday” outright (at a 1.2 rating) and challenge heavyweights “Face the Nation” (2.2) on NBC and “This Week” (2.1) on ABC for supremacy. In fact, as recently as May 11, “Chris Matthews” edged out all three shows nationally. And on the weekend of Aug. 2, it won the battle in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
“Chris Matthews knows his stuff and because the show is well produced, he has been able to adjust his style toward the Sunday morning, Saturday night mind-set, and the ratings reflect that,” said Neal Shapiro, president of NBC News.
The weekend show typically features a panel of veteran reporters debating the hot topics of the week. Heading into season two, “Chris Matthews” has been renewed by the NBC owned-and-operated stations as well as Hearst-Argyle, Gannett, Belo, LIN, Scripps Howard, Cox, Post-Newsweek and Hubbard stations. The show has received upgrades heading into its second season on WTVJ-TV, Miami, KDSK-TV, St. Louis, KMBC-TV, Kansas City, WTVF-TV, Nashville, WCMH-TV, Columbus, Ohio, WOOD-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich., KOB-TV Albuquerque, N.M., and KSEE-TV, Fresno, Calif., among others.
“What we found is that there was a big market out there for a lively week-in-review show,” said executive producer Nancy Nathan. “So we made sure to be younger, hipper and certainly different from everything else you see on Sunday morning. Now reporters are begging to be on the show.”
The only change to expect, said Ms. Nathan, is more faces for the roundtable.
“We’d be crazy to screw with the format,” she said. “In the beginning we weren’t sure about the idea to have a rotating cast, but it worked. So this year, we’re going to bring on more and more new faces, and with the campaign coming, its going to be a whole lot of fun.”