Brian Williams knew the ‘first billing’ days were over before NBC came out

Brian Williams quit MSNBC after the departure of its two biggest funders – and realizing his “better billing” days were over.

The longtime presenter – whose career has been marred by his high-profile lying scandal – announced Tuesday night that he would be leaving NBC News after nearly three decades of his contract expiring next month.

With network kingpin Rachel Maddow set to host her evening show every week next year and Kasie Hunt now on CNN, a TV source said, “MSNBC now has a staff hole.”

Things were “messed up” for Williams, who currently hosts “The 11th Hour,” when NBC News chairman Andy Lack left in May 2020 and MSNBC chairman Phil Griffin in December 2020.

A senior MSNBC source said, “Brian’s senior rabbi was Andy Lack and when he left it messed things up for Brian. When Phil left, it made matters even worse. In many ways, it was clear to Brian that he couldn’t chart a course with the network.

Brian Williams has announced he will be leaving NBC News after nearly three decades next month.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Rashida Jones took on the role of Griffin, while Lack’s shoes were filled by Cesar Conde.

“Brian just doesn’t have the same relationship with the new regime,” the source said. “And there have been tensions around the way it was presented on big political nights, like election nights. He used to be the headliner since his time on NBC News, and that went to more up-and-coming players like Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, and Joy Reid.

“It all had an impact on his decision to leave. “

Williams said he wanted to spend more time with his family and work on new projects.

Rachel Maddow
MSNBC star Rachel Maddow signed a new deal in August that will see her move her show every week.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

His departure adds to bigger talent issues for MSNBC.

Maddow – MSNBC’s largest audience producer – signed a new agreement in August to stay with the network. But she is paid a lot of money to work less and will take her daily 9 p.m. show every week, sources say.

As Business Insider reported, Maddow signed a new multi-year agreement with MSNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal.

Nicolle Wallace
Nicolle Wallace is one of the rising stars of MSNBC who made his mark on the big nights of politics.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

While she will continue to host “The Rachel Maddow Show” for the time being, it will end next year, leaving Maddow free to produce other television and film projects.

The source said it had been a headache for Jones, adding: “It was tough those early days at work for Rashida. With Rachel and Brian, what kind of stamp will Rashida and Cesar put on MSNBC? As another TV insider added, “Brian was always a big name and helped put their programming together.” Their only big regular star now is Nicolle Wallace. They will have to poach talent from other networks.

Joy reid
Joy Reid speaks at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival in New York City.
Getty Images

However, an NBC source said: “Rachel’s not going anywhere. In fact, viewers will soon be seeing her in a lot more places … Although Brian will be missed, we have a long list of talent, all eager to take on additional roles.

The consensus among connoisseurs is that Ali Velshi is the heir apparent to Williams’ 23-hour slot.

Another TV insider added, “Even though Brian’s ratings weren’t good at 11pm, he brought stability to the network. MSNBC needs a strong talent pool, they need a lot of smart people, and they need to develop stars. You just can’t bring just anyone, it takes a while to develop an audience for a particular presenter.

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