Sam Donaldson of ABC News is in talks to jump to MSNBC.

MSNBC appears to be wooing Donaldson as part of a major shake-up of its prime-time line-up that could spell the end of Phil Donahue's return to TV.

ABC sources confirmed yesterday a story, first broken on the Drudge Report, that it had grudgingly given its permission for Donaldson to talk to MSNBC.

"Out of respect for him, if there was an opportunity that he wanted to pursue, we would not want to stand in the way of that happening," an ABC News executive familiar with the discussions said.

Donaldson, a former White House correspondent, has been absent from TV since last summer when George Stephanopoulos took over his hosting duties on the Sunday public affairs show, This Week.

He has been relegated to radio and a show on ABC's Web site since then.

According to Drudge, Donaldson is being considered for MSNBC's 9 p.m. hour -- where he would compete directly against CNN's Larry King and Fox's Hannity and Colmes.

MSNBC has been trailing its rivals -- top-rated Fox News Channel and CNN -- badly in recent years and a wholesale restructuring of its line-up has long been expected.

Among the changes under consideration are former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura getting a daily show at 10 p.m.

Just last year, the channel reshuffled its schedule and changed its logo to America's News Channel.

Back then, MSNBC lured Phil Donahue out of retirement to take on FNC's Bill O'Reilly. But Donahue's new show never found traction.

Since last fall, there have been reports that MSNBC yakker Chris Matthews' Hardball would be demoted to 7 p.m. Bill Press and Pat Buchanan, who currently host an afternoon talk show could be upgraded to 8 p.m., according to the reports.