John Heilemann and Mark Halperin Ponder Game-Changing Deal With MSNBC

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Today - Season 62
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.Photo: NBC NewsWire/2013 NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

One of NBC News chairman Andy Lack’s biggest priorities has been the makeover of MSNBC. Since taking the helm earlier this year, Lack has overhauled the lefty cable-news channel into a more centrist outfit, stacking the schedule with hard news blocks and giving Brian Williams significant airtime during breaking news events.

Now, as the presidential-election season heats up, Lack is looking to give a show to the campaign chroniclers John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. According to four media executives, Lack is in talks with Bloomberg Television to simulcast Heilemann and Halperin’s politics show With All Due Respect on MSNBC. One scenario being discussed is to air WADR at 6 p.m., filling the slot formerly occupied by Al Sharpton. The novel programming arrangement would conceivably benefit both sides. Heilemann and Halperin would gain access to a far larger audience than ratings-challenged Bloomberg TV provides. And Lack would find a solution to the problem of replacing Sharpton. According to MSNBC insiders, Lack tried and failed to convince Lawrence O’Donnell to move from prime time to the 6 p.m. slot. And, recruiting Heilemann and Halperin isn’t as much of a stretch as it might seem. The duo are Morning Joe regulars and also appear on Hardball.

Sill, the arrangement comes with thorny management challenges for both networks. Inside Bloomberg, rank-and-file producers have resented how Heilemann and Halperin, who earn a reported $1 million a year, are able to show up on a rival network. Mike Bloomberg himself has been unhappy at times with their show, though he recently signaled his support for it. At MSNBC, Lack risks souring his already complicated relationship with CNBC chief Mark Hoffman by giving a program from a rival business network prime airtime. “Hoffman is going to go crazy,” one source close to the players said.

When asked about the deal, Heilemann said: “I can’t talk to you about any such thing.”