In early April, when MSNBC President Phil Griffin announced that talk radio veteran Ed Schultz was joining the cable news network to anchor the 6 p.m. hour, he said little about the details of the deal, other than to note that he was “thrilled to have Ed kicking-off our primetime lineup.”
The 6 p.m. time slot has long bedeviled MSNBC executives. And, to date, the arrival of the popular, liberal talk show host has done little to boost the network’s numbers. In May, according to Nielsen data, The Ed Show, finished well behind CNN and Fox News at 6 p.m., averaging 510,000 total viewers and 126,000 in the 25-54 demographic–numbers, which were down 13% and 35% respectively compared with May of 2008 when David Gregory was anchoring the hour.
Perhaps as a result of the soft numbers, rumors have recently been floating through the TV news community that Mr. Schultz is working for MSNBC without a long term contract–the implication being that his future at the network seems far from guaranteed.
Not true, said Mr. Schultz when The Observer reached him on Tuesday morning. Mr. Schultz, who represents himself in all his business deals, said he has a solid deal with the cable news channel firmly in place.
“I have a three-year agreement with MSNBC,” said Mr. Schultz. “Anybody who thinks I don’t have a signed contract is completely wrong.”
Mr. Schultz declined to say how much MSNBC was paying him. One industry source, who spoke to the Observer, remained skeptical.
“In light of the financial crisis, and given how carefully MSNBC has been trying to manage their talent and resources,” said our source, “the notion that they would go on the hook for a three year firm deal for a guy who has never had a show on television before seems, at best, highly suspect.”
Said MSNBC spokesperson Jeremy Gaines, “Ed has a multi-year deal with us.”