In a profile piece written by veteran journalist Rebecca Dana in The New Republic, MSNBC President Phil Griffin said he believes that the liberal network can beat Fox News by 2014.
Dana writes that even though Griffin and new CNN president Jeff Zucker are close personal friends, Griffin plans to “kick his ass,” and that beating Fox News is his “life’s ambition.”
And MSNBC is more successful now than it has ever been. At the end of this presidential election, it drew an average of 1.5 million viewers to its weekday prime time lineup. (The numbers have fallen since.) Fox still gets more than two million a night, but Griffin, optimistically, believes he can beat Fox by 2014. It’s a cockiness that has funneled down. In a recent staff meeting, one of Griffin’s producers coined a new term for Fox News: ‘Loserville.’
Griffin and his producer sound more like Nancy Pelosi every time she predicts that the Democrats will retake control of Congress in the next election. It isn’t based on reality and isn’t going to happen any time soon, considering how much MSNBC trails Fox News in the ratings.
While Griffin keeps setting his sights on Roger Ailes and Fox, he should keep his eyes on his rear view mirror, where onetime cable news leader CNN is receiving a makeover under new president Jeff Zucker.
MSNBC’s new 8 p.m. anchor told Dana that he wasn’t sure what Griffin’s political leanings were, though he thought he was a Democrat, and that Griffin’s politics aren’t woven into the DNA of the network as they are with Roger Ailes and Fox.
That may explain Griffin’s desire to build “the MSNBC Lifestyle,” in an attempt to broaden the network’s reach beyond liberal politics. That includes giving Chris Matthews a digital channel to talk about movies and good television shows.
What’s next? Decorating tips from Rachel Maddow?
Griffin has succeeded in improving the ratings and profits at MSNBC, but the lifestyle effort shows that he isn’t really confident that his brand of liberal talk will be able to overtake Fox News, and he is hedging his bets for the day viewers tire of the left-wing banter.