‘MSNBC Prime’ becomes ‘Rachel Maddow’ replacement four days a week

MSNBC has settled — at least for now — on a way to handle the whole issue of “The Rachel Maddow Show” going weekly.

On Mondays, the timeslot will be titled “The Rachel Maddow Show” as normal and will presumably continue to use her existing graphics and look.

On Tuesday through Friday, meanwhile, the 9 p.m. hour will be called “MSNBC Prime” starting May 3, 2022, and will be produced by the same team as Maddow’s show.

Initially, MSNBC retitled the show on most TV provider schedules, but it appears to have since switched back to titling them all as “The Rachel Maddow Show” — at least there. It’s still possible the network is using alternate titling four days a week to prevent the likely lower ratings on those days from pulling down Maddow’s Monday viewership.

It’s also using much of the same look as Maddow’s show — including the blocky red, white and blue motif with stylized cityscapes visible through portions of the video wall graphics.

Also sticking around are the rough paper edge accents with page turn sound effects.

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This is compared the “TRMS” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” branded ones that the show used during its weekly run, which will also likely continue to be used on Mondays.

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The page turn sound effect has been used since the show began though the exact design and animations used have evolved over the years.

What has changed is a new logo lockup that uses the existing MSNBC logo along with a humanist geometric typeface for “Prime” — a style that is similar to what was briefly used for the logo of what NBC originally planned to name its news streamer, NBC News Signal. The name was changed to NBC News Now before launch.

Both the typeface used in the Signal logo and current “Prime” one have sharp tipped “N”s that are reflection of the “classic” NBC and NBC News logotype.

In some ways, the “MSNBC Prime” branding has parallels to the “MSNBC Reports” branding the network introduced in March 2021 for much of its dayside programming, which gives it the flexibility to have all of the hours share a common name and look while still, on screen and in official listings, titling them along with anchor names (such as “Andrea Mitchel Reports“).

The use of “Prime” was likely needed to help distinguish the “Reports” hours, which are supposed to focus more on rolling news coverage, from the more perspective-driven programming found in the network’s evening and primetime schedule.

As noted, the “Prime” show, which is being hosted by Ali Velshi for its first week out, uses most of the Maddow graphics package rather than relying on the blue, white and yellow “MSNBC Reports” look that combines isometric layouts and virtual set extension video wall backgrounds, which also allows it to keep visual tie-ins to Maddow’s shows as well as distinguish it from hard news coverage.

MSNBC hasn’t settled on a permanent host for the four days Maddow isn’t behind the desk — nor has it indicated if it plans to stick with a single host for those hours (the network previously said it wasn’t in a big rush to fill the spot).

In some ways, aside from the name change, it almost appears like part of the idea is to just make viewers think Maddow is simply out that evening, given that the show still, at least so far, carries much of the same pacing, format and style as her editions.

Velshi, like many of the hosts who have filled in for Maddow over the years, even continue the habit of attempting to mirror her intonations and inflections at times.

In many ways, it’s probably the best the network could have made out of the circumstances of losing one of its top rated and likely most profitable faces for four days a week.

Back in August 2021, Maddow signed a reported $30 million deal with NBCUniversal that included the provision for her going weekly but still appearing during special coverages and having the opportunity to work on other projects, both within the company and on her own.

The deal was widely described has NBC paying her more money to work less, though the network reportedly was fearful of her appearing on another network’s air if it didn’t capitulate to her requests for a more flexible schedule. 

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“Prime” is a common name used in TV news branding. 

CNN previously has a show called “Cuomo Prime Time” and Fox had a temporary, generic “Primetime” branded show that was replaced with “Jesse Watters Primetime.”

The 9 p.m. timeslot is one of the most competitive and lucrative ones in cable news. Fox’s “Hannity” dominates the timeslot and CNN is currently without a permanent show, since Chris Cuomo was fired and “Cuomo Prime Time” canceled — it’s been airing “CNN Tonight” and specials in the spot, though newly installed president Chris Licht will likely need to make a decision on what to do with the period soon.

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