Rachel Maddow’s decision to step back from her titular show on MSNBC, scaling it back to a once-a-week, Monday slot, created a vacuum at the liberal network.
Alex Wagner, described as Maddow’s “glorified understudy” by NewsBusters associate editor Nicholas Fondacaro, has struggled to capture an audience for her primetime show, “Alex Wagner Tonight,” since its Aug. 16 debut, Fox News reported Tuesday.
The former MSNBC daytime anchor averaged 1.6 million viewers in her first two weeks in the 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday slot, according to the Washington Examiner.
That was a 38 percent drop from Maddow’s 2.6 million viewers on Mondays.
More directly, Wagner hasn’t been able to realistically compete with her Fox News rival in the prestigious 9 p.m. slot: Sean Hannity.
While Wagner continues to average 1.6 million viewers per night, the “Hannity” host has brought in 2.7 million, according to Fox News, which said he was “thumping” her “by 63% among total viewers.”
The outlet, which cited Nielsen Media Research data, further noted that Wagner averaged only 157,000 viewers from the revenue-critical 25-54 age demographic, including fewer than 100,000 on Sept. 16.
Hannity, meanwhile, attracted an average of 336,000 viewers in that demo.
“Instead of a splash in primetime, Alex Wagner has made a tiny, microscopic ripple as one could easily forget she’s a host in MSNBC’s lineup,” Fondacaro told Fox News “Being Maddow’s glorified understudy hasn’t reaped the dividends MSNBC might have hoped for. She hasn’t scored any major headlines and thus becomes a void in the lineup.”
“Before getting the anchor position, Wagner was known for making headlines with outrageous statements maligning the right, including in her past life with MSNBC daytime. But these days she’s mostly on par with the same old same old liberal pontificating,” he added.
Fondacaro then posed a rhetorical question, “Her stated goal for her show was to ‘dismantle’ and ‘undercut’ right-wing lies, but can anyone honestly say her show is anything different from the rest of MSNBC’s lineup?”
Wagner’s performance issues were foreshadowed by a prominent teleprompter failure during her debut that made social media trends.
TheBlaze reported that she paused and looked confused as the malfunction became obvious.
“I am thrilled to be here and honored to have this hour every night, Tuesdays through Fridays, to spend with you,” Wagner began after bantering with Chris Hayes.
“Like most of you watching right now, I have been a longtime viewer of ‘The Rachel Maddow Show,’ and I hope to live up to the incredibly high standard she has set in covering the stories of the day and bringing context to this moment that we are living through together,” she continued, before awkwardly pausing and haltingly attempting to go on.
The first handoff between Chris Hayes and Alex Wagner as she begins her new show taking over for Rachel Maddow. Then the technical gremlins begin and the teleprompter goes out. pic.twitter.com/1PSHA1Ubai
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) August 17, 2022
Wagner’s eyes darted to camera left repeatedly with her hands motioning questioningly at the crew, as she stumbled over her words.
She addressed the issue later in the broadcast, according to TheBlaze, saying, “Yes, we sure did have a case of the technical gremlins at the top of the show, but this is the first one so we’ll work it out. Now I think we’ve gotten it all under control.”
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