MSNBC Tries to 'Punch Up' for Higher Ratings

September 22nd, 2006 1:50 PM
MSNBC's new general manager Dan Abrams is trying a few new things to increase ratings for the perennially third placed news channel. One is to have its hosts "punch up," meaning attack higher rated TV shows in the hope that viewers from the more popular shows will flip channels to see what's going on. On Sep. 18, "conservative" (the kind of conservative MSNBC will stomach) host Tucker Carlson made a deliberate grab at Bill O'Reilly's viewers: "You don’t have to [watch] because we’re gonna watch it for you."

Referring to O'Reilly's interview with game show host Bob Barker, who discussed his vegetarian beliefs, Carlson said O'Reilly was a hypocrite for condemning celebrity news.

"Just a recap: Just last week, Bill O’Reilly told his audience, quote, 'Please believe me when I tell you I have absolutely no interest in the lives of celebrities.'

"That was then this is now. Again, if you don’t watch his show–you don’t have to because we’re gonna watch it for you–you may think it’s Bill O’Reilly ranting about the border, Iran, the coming election, issues that matter. In fact, it’s kind of a cheesy show. Just last week, his topics included the death of Anna Nicole’s son; John Mark Karr and the JonBenet Ramsey murder; Deborah Lafave, the Florida teacher convicted of having sex with one of her students; the company that makes and markets Girls Gone Wild videos–- that was a topic. And on and on and on. Rosie O’Donnell was another.

"You get the point, this is not a show that is as deep or hard as its reputation would lead you to believe. It’s a show that wants, as well all do, ratings. And tabloid stuff rates. So Bill O’Reilly, welcome to cable television. Everybody does it, maybe you can start admitting it."

TV Newser reports that two other MSNBC hosts are "punching up" as well.

MSNBC is "punching up" again: Both Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough covered Bill O'Reilly's Al Qaeda death list claims last night.

Olbermann made it the #1 story on Countdown, under the heading "O'Really?" Radar writer Marcus Baram said he thinks O'Reilly's claims are a stretch: "I think part of it feeds into his own fantasy, perhaps. Part of it could be just an exaggeration."

Then at the top of the 9pm hour, Scarborough talked about the claims with NBC News terrorism analyst Roger Cressey and others.

"No, it sounds like this is a status thing. You've got the fast cars, fast women, best-selling author, but until you make the Al Qaeda hit list, you're not really somebody," Cressey says. He suggests there's a "delusional aspect" to this: "Frankly, Al Qaeda has better things to do with its time than worry about media types..."