‘Norville Tonight’ Leaving MSNBC Prime-Time Lineup

Dec 17, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Deborah Norville Tonight” will leave the MSNBC prime-time lineup in mid-January, a little more than a year after it debuted, and Ms. Norville will refocus on her day job as anchor of King World-syndicated “Inside Edition.”

In an internal e-mail Friday, MSNBC President Rick Kaplan said, “After careful thought, Deborah Norville has informed me that she can no longer continue her super-human balancing act of hosting two daily television programs.

“We’re looking forward to developing new, compelling programming for the 9 p.m. time period.”

Mr. Kaplan included a note from Ms. Norville, who wrote: “This decision comes down to one issue: time. With my pre-existing commitments to King World’s ‘Inside Edition’ and to my husband and three children, there simply are not enough hours in my day to do justice to my colleagues at MSNBC and the program we aspire to do.”

“When MSNBC came to me one year ago, it was an unexpected opportunity to do the longer, more in-depth interviews that television needs more of and a chance to reconnect with former colleagues from my old broadcast home,” Ms. Norville wrote, referring to her time at NBC News during the 1990s, when she anchored “NBC News at Sunrise” before being cast as Bryant Gumbel’s co-anchor, an assignment that lasted only long enough for her to be remembered as the younger woman who supplanted Jane Pauley on “Today.”

In her note, Ms. Norville said, “Time constraints prevented me from being able to book guests and research segments to my own high standards. And, unless someone invents a time-stretching machine, that likely won’t change.”

She did not mention contractual prohibitions by King World of the show making use of video packages or devices that might make her MSNBC show look like “Inside Edition.”

“Norville Tonight” remained MSNBC’s least-watched program (an average 266,000 viewers) in a prime-time lineup that capitalized on a long, hard-fought campaign season and big, juicy legal stories to grow and gain enough traction in total viewers and in the key 25-to-54 demographic to occasionally slip past some CNN programs into second place.

Much credit for the improved performance is given to Mr. Kaplan for living up to his promises not to tinker with the lineup or the strategy. So observers say he should be taken at his word that something new will be developed for 9 p.m. and that “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” and “Scarborough Country” will remain where they are in the lineup.

In her note, Ms. Norville said, “I have been assured my departure will result in no loss of employment for anyone on ‘Deborah Norville Tonight.'”