Inside the Massive MSNBC Deal Paying Maddow to Work Less

Heidi Gutman/MSNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Heidi Gutman/MSNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

NBCUniversal is forking over big money to get Rachel Maddow to stay home more.

Last weekend, news leaked that the iconic liberal TV host decided to sign a new contract with MSNBC after The Daily Beast first reported that she was considering leaving the nightly show she’s helmed for 13 years to start her own venture.

That deal will give Maddow, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, a jaw-dropping $30 million per year to keep her with the company through the 2024 election, according to four people familiar with the matter.

As part of the deal, Maddow’s long-running 9 p.m. nightly broadcast will end next year. Instead, after stepping back from The Rachel Maddow Show, she will host a weekly program set to air roughly 30 weeks out of the year.

The contours of the deal were reported in outlets including the Wall Street Journal and CNN, which first noted the end to Maddow’s famed show. But The Daily Beast has learned that NBCUniversal News Corp., the parent company of left-leaning cable news network MSNBC, made some other massive concessions in a deal that will ultimately mean less Maddow airtime overall. The deal, insiders told The Daily Beast, effectively buys the network more time to figure out an eventual replacement for the multi-faceted role Maddow plays at MSNBC.

Rachel Maddow Seriously Considers Leaving MSNBC

It was a “dealbreaker” for Maddow to have a schedule allowing more time for family, according to three people involved with the deal. And so, under the terms of the agreement, the nightly show will cease to air in its current form around spring of 2022, according to people briefed on the situation.

Negotiated by powerful talent agency Endeavor and its CEO Ari Emanuel and ​​president Mark Shapiro, the deal will reunite Maddow with her former boss Phil Griffin, who people familiar with the situation said is poised to run her new production company.

The TV star’s new contract will give her a wide range of opportunities across NBCUniversal's news and entertainment divisions as she looks to develop podcasts, documentaries, and other types of multimedia projects.

Maddow, MSNBC, and Endeavor did not respond to requests for comment.

The flexibility of Maddow’s contract reflects NBCUniversal’s weak negotiating position. The company scrambled in recent days to lock down the cable network’s signature star and fend off stiff competition from companies like Disney, WarnerMedia, and the major streaming platforms who attempted to poach her.

Ultimately, NBCU didn’t have many other options. Over the past several years, Maddow has become a ratings juggernaut, pulling in millions of viewers each night and occasionally beating all of her competitors, including the normally ratings-dominant hosts at Fox News.

But her ratings success hasn’t trickled down much to other primetime hosts on the network, leaving no obvious successor for her show if and when she decided to vacate the gig.

That knowledge left MSNBC president Rashida Jones and her boss NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde working feverishly to secure Maddow’s new deal in what has been described by multiple MSNBC insiders as a “face-saving” move—one that has bought the pair much needed time to find a replacement.

“I don’t think they have any clue what they are going to do when she leaves,” a person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!

Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.