LOS ANGELES – How big a demotion is Brian Williams’ move from anchoring NBC Nightly News to working at MSNBC?
Crisis communications expert Glenn Selig looked at the current bottom-of-the-barrel ratings of MSNBC and compared them to the highly rated NBC Nightly News. Based on those numbers, Williams would have to be on the MSNBC air 24 hours straight -- or more -- to get the penetration of just a single half-hour newscast.
"It’s a huge demotion. Going from 'Nightly News' anchor which is the most prestigious role in the news division, to MSNBC, which is in the gutter ratings-wise … is a big fall from grace for Brian Williams," Selig, told FOX411. "It’s hard to put a good spin on this one."
"To think he wasn't fired is mind boggling," added Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center, before taking a different look at the numbers. "Even if Williams got the ratings of the most popular MSNBC show, he would have to appear on 13 programs just to equal one night in his old spot."
NBC announced Thursday that the former anchor would be permanently replaced by Lester Holt, and that he would instead be anchoring breaking news and special reports for MSNBC.
Since Williams’ sudden departure, Holt has maintained strong ratings and kept the broadcast in the number one position - averaging 8.9 million viewers over ABC's "World News Tonight" which is inching closer at 8.5 million viewers.
"Had the ratings tanked under Lester Holt, NBC might have done something different. I think this arrangement allows Brian Williams the chance to redeem his credibility and potentially work his way back up," Selig said. "Our country is filled with great comeback stories, and clearly he hopes to be one… for real."
In the statement announcing the changes this week, Williams apologized for saying "things that weren't true," and vowed to win back the trust of his colleagues and viewers.
The Emmy-winning newscaster was put on leave by NBC in February for falsely claiming to have been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire while covering the Iraq War, prompting network executives to launch an internal investigation into any other embellished or fabricated statements by their star anchor.
NBC claimed to have found other examples of inaccuracies delivered by Williams during "late-night programs and during public appearances."