MSNBC to replace longtime host Chris Hayes with Jen Psaki on Monday nights

 September 14, 2023

MSNBC recently announced that new host Jen Psaki would be replacing longtime host Chris Hayes on Monday nights in primetime, Fox News reported.

According to media analysts, that primetime lineup adjustment should be viewed as both a ratings gamble for the network as well as a potential threat to Hayes' future with the network.

MSNBC moves Psaki to Monday primetime slot

Last week, TV Insider reported that MSNBC altered its primetime lineup for Mondays, beginning on September 25, by moving "Inside with Jen Psaki" to the 8/7c time slot previously occupied by "All In with Chris Hayes," though Hayes would continue to host his weeknight program in that same time slot on Tuesday through Friday.

Psaki, the former White House press secretary for President Joe Biden, first joined the network in 2022 after leaving the Biden administration and since then has hosted a top-rated Sunday show that will continue in addition to her new Monday night show.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Psaki's new Monday night slot will serve as the lead-in for MSNBC's highly-rated 9/8c slot hosted by Rachel Maddow. Notably, Maddow now only works on Mondays and her time slot is otherwise occupied by host Alex Wagner for the remainder of Tuesday through Friday.

The outlet somewhat downplayed the significance of Psaki replacing Hayes on Mondays by noting that Hayes already often didn't work on Mondays -- he instead has been focused on a podcast, writing a book, and doing live events -- and Psaki has already been included among a rotation of guest hosts who fill in for Hayes on those nights when he is not there.

MSNBC's gamble for ratings

Fox News media analyst Joe Concha said the Monday-only lineup alteration for MSNBC was "profoundly stupid" and that Psaki should either host all weeknights or none at all, as "Viewers want consistency," and "for MSNBC to offer these half-baked lineups doesn't allow for that."

Concha also suggested that Hayes should feel "insulted" at being replaced by someone who just arrived at the network "a few months ago" while he has been a constant presence in MSNBC's primetime lineup since 2013.

Jeffrey McCall, a journalism professor at DePauw University, told Fox News the MSNBC lineup shift for Mondays was an "unusual" gamble in search of ratings for a "blockbuster Monday" that would feature "two high-profile progressive women" in the form of Psaki and Maddow to woo left-leaning viewers.

"We're heading into primetime election season, and we're heading into the Trump trials and all that stuff is going to be red meat for the progressives who watch MSNBC," the professor said. "And [they'll] be happy to see back-to-back high-personality women beating up on Trump, for example, and promoting Democratic causes."

Future of Hayes at network now in question

As for Hayes, Newsbusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that he "should be nervous" about his future with the network and explained, "MSNBC can insist Chris Hayes remains a valuable part of the network and will be going forward, but if that’s the case, why then was Jen Psaki given a night at his expense?"

McCall also wondered about the eventual impact of Hayes being replaced by the current "darling of the Democratic Party," Psaki, who worked for both the Obama and Biden administrations, with a stint as a CNN contributor in between those political gigs.

"Chris Hayes is a loyal soldier of the MSNBC approach to journalism. He takes on all the right issues. He's got all the right positions. But in reality, his ratings have never really taken off," McCall told Fox News. "I would think he probably can't help but look at this as maybe a threat coming over the horizon, and I would think he's probably looking over his shoulder because if Psaki's ratings really take off at that time slot, 8:00, I can't imagine MSNBC wouldn't be thinking about, 'OK, where do we reposition Chris and maybe leave Jen in this slot?'"

"If she's doing well, the evidence is going to be right there. And it's all about numbers," he added. "If Jen Psaki gets them an extra half a million viewers per night, those numbers are going to talk rather than loyalty."

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