CNBC cancels “The News With Shepard Smith”

Shepard Smith also exits the business channel

[Editor’s Note: This post was updated November 9.] 

Back in September 2020, we looked at whether or not news marketed as unbiased and straight down the middle – the near simultaneous launches of CNBC’s The News With Shepard Smith and NewsNation, would be viable in a sea of opinionated cable news networks. 

After two years and two months, it appears the answer is no.

A year after fledging NewsNation overhauled their prime-time lineup – replacing newscasts with personality shows – like every other cable news network, CNBC canceled The News Thursday after a little over two years on the air. The show airs at 6 p.m. Central Time weeknights in the “prime access” hour, known more for local news, game shows, off-network sitcoms, and newsmagazines and repeated at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. The show also had an audio-only version via podcast. Both launched in September 2020 during the pandemic, with NewsNation debuting the first day of the month and The News debuting at the last day of the month.

With the cancellation, Smith is also exiting CNBC. His addition gave the former Fox News anchor network more credibility as he helmed election night in November 2020 and breaking news coverage, including the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021

“After spending time with many of you and closely reviewing the various aspects of our business, I believe we must prioritize and focus on our core strengths of business news and personal finance,” CNBC President KC Sullivan said in an e-mail to employees. “As a result of this strategic alignment to our core business, we will need to shift some of our priorities and resources and make some difficult decisions.” Sullivan replaced CBS 2 alumnus Mark Hoffman in the role two months ago

The nightly newscast ceased production on the day it was canceled, November 3. 

Its Twitter account also went dark Thursday, except to retweet its own cancellation. On Tuesday, CNBC does have an one-hour election special called Business On The Ballot but other than that, there are no plans for extended election coverage. 

The time slot is expected to be filled with another business program in early in 2023. Sullivan went on to explain: “We need to further invest in business news content that provides our audiences actionable understanding of the complex developments in global markets and the implications on institutions, investors and individuals”.

This comes as CNBC parent NBCUniversal is looking to cost-cutting measures to remain relevant in the streaming era, including the possibility of NBC giving the last hour of prime-time back to affiliates. CNBC hoped to use Smith as a bridge between its business news schedule and its entertainment lineup which itself has struggled over the years, mainly dominated by off-network episodes of Shark Tank. Though it has prime-time hits such as the long-running American Greed and Jay Leno’s Garage, CNBC recently canceled Marcus Lemonis’ The Profit after eight seasons and is currently retooling the lackluster Money Court by adding former Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel. 

This year, The News averaged around 220,000 viewers a night, down from 296,000 in February 2021 and was flailing in the key 25-54 demo. While that tops competing NewsNation shows by quite a margin, it was well behind programming on other cable news networks. The News also had to compete (in the Eastern and Central time zones) with other programming targeting the 25-54 demo including local news and game shows Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, and Jeopardy! In Chicago, ABC 7 (WLS-TV) has dominated the prime access hour with its Eyewitness News at 6 and Wheel for decades, dating back to the mid-1980s. 

The News was plagued with issues including behind-the-scenes strife and one episode where it had technical issues. Smith had an annual salary of $10 million and a staff of around 25 who most would likely be laid off. With the fledging NewsNation now focusing more on personality shows with Chris Cuomo (and moving traditional newscasts to earlier time slots) and CNBC dumping Smith, it appears cable TV news viewers no longer have an interest in watching traditional national newscasts in primetime. 

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