Dec 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

Cable news talent wars are shifting to streaming platforms

Data: MoffettNathanson Research; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: MoffettNathanson Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

The vacancies at cable news companies are piling up as networks and journalists begin to eye streaming alternatives.

Why it matters: Primetime cable slots and the Sunday shows are no longer the most opportunistic placements for major TV talent.

Driving the news: Long-time "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace is leaving the network after nearly two decades, he announced Sunday. He will be joining CNN as an anchor for its new streaming service, CNN+.

  • Wallace will anchor a new weekday show and will contribute to the network's daily live programming, per CNN.
  • It was his decision not to renew his contract with the network, which expired this year, CNN's Brian Stelter reported.

The big picture: Wallace marks the latest in a string of cable news host departures and shakeups in the past few weeks and months. There are now several holes cable bosses will need to fill in coming weeks.

  • MSNBC's Brian Williams signed off from his 11 p.m. program on MSNBC last week after 28 years with the network.
  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is expected to leave her daily program next year as she pursues different types of journalism endeavors with the network, which will leave MSNBC's 9 p.m. primetime spot open.
  • CNN's Chris Cuomo was terminated from the network last Saturday, leaving CNN's 9 p.m. primetime spot open.

Be smart: Major networks are investing heavily to lure talent to streaming alternatives in light of the decline of linear television.

  • CNN hired NBC News veteran Kasie Hunt as an anchor and analyst for CNN+, reportedly for a salary of over $1 million. It's hiring hundreds of new roles for the streaming service, set to launch next quarter. In April, it
  • NBC News has already hired the majority of the 200+ new jobs it announced over the summer for its new streaming service and digital team, a top executive confirmed to Axios last month. One of its linear TV anchors, Joshua Johnson, moved full-time to host a primetime streaming show for NBC News Now.
  • Fox News launched a new weather-focused streaming service in October. A Fox executive said last week the company is prepared to migrate Fox News to a streaming platform when the time is right.
  • CBS News changed the name of its streaming service recently from CBSN to “CBS News" to represent a new streamlined vision for streaming.

Between the lines: TV networks have been forced to adapt to streaming faster than expected due to the massive shift to digital consumption during by the pandemic.

  • Last year was the worst in history for cord-cutting, according to analysts at the research firm MoffettNathanson, and 2021 isn't looking much better.
  • Prior to the pandemic, there were roughly 93 million households paying for Pay-TV, per MoffettNathanson. Today, there are about 84 million, and that includes those accessing live TV via digital "skinny bundle" subscriptions.

The bottom line: TV networks won't stop seriously investing in linear news programs until sports move out of the cable bundle, and that won't be for another few years.

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