Donahue Rips Net Over Cancellation


After just six months on the air, MSNBC pulled the plug on Phil Donahue's primetime talk show last week.

Donahue had been the anchor of a talk-radio style format that MSNBC executives kicked off last summer, when the network began moving away from documentary news programming.

The show performed its best following the heavy marketing push that followed its debut last July, when it averaged 620,000 viewers. But the show's ratings quickly declined. It averaged 421,000 viewers in January and 446,000 viewers in February.

"We're proud of the program and we're disappointed that the show was not able to attract the viewership we had hoped for and expected," MSNBC president Erik Sorenson said in a prepared statement last Tuesday.

Donahue fired back at MSNBC the following day, suggesting MSNBC did not give him enough time to drive better ratings. "It took almost three years for Fox [News Channel] to overtake CNN," Donahue said in statement, according to the Associated Press. "We had six months."

The former daytime TV stalwart also criticized MSNBC for its recent moves to hire conservative commentator Mike Savage and former Republican politicians Joe Scarborough and Dick Armey, suggesting that the network is trying to "out-fox Fox."

Fox News's talk-heavy format, which includes conservative voices such as Bill O'Reilly, has helped the network dominate the all-news network battle in the last year. Fox News had its best month in February, averaging a 1.7 rating and 1.4 million households in primetime, up 50 percent from February 2002.

Fox posted its widest lead yet over Cable News Network, which averaged a 1.1 rating and 973,000 households, up 46 percent from the same month last year. MSNBC averaged a 0.4 rating and 346,000 households, up 31 percent from last year.