MSNBC named Alex Wagner to succeed Rachel Maddow as the weekday anchor of its 9 p.m. hour four days a week, tapping a veteran of political news to fill one of the most important time slots in the string.
Ms. Wagner, 44, is a fixture in Washington journalism with roots in progressive news and opinion outlets. She worked for MSNBC as a daytime show host for several years and rejoined the network in February as a senior political analyst and guest anchor during prime time, replacing Ms. Maddow and Chris Hayes.
In an interview, Rashida Jones, the network’s president, said Ms. Wagner’s experience in political coverage would be crucial as the network prepares to cover this fall’s midterm elections.
“This is not a show where our hair is on fire and we’re yelling at each other, and we’re creating these manufactured moments of tension,” said Ms. Jones. “I really want the conclusion of this show to be a better understanding of what’s going on in the world.”
MSNBC said Ms. Wagner is the only Asian American to host a prime-time cable news show.
Ms. Maddow, MSNBC’s most popular anchor, reached a settlement last year that reduced her anchoring duties on the channel. She will continue to host the 9 pm hour on Mondays, when the show will continue to be called “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Mrs. Wagner will host a program at that time Tuesday through Friday beginning August 16. The name of her program has not been decided yet.
The 9:00 p.m. hour, a lynchpin of primetime programming, is now just one part of a larger programming strategy that includes television, streaming, podcasts and bulletins. MSNBC, Fox News and CNN have all launched streaming video services in recent years amid broader industry anxiety about the long-term erosion of cable TV viewership.
But traditional television continues to dominate cable news networks despite a growing emphasis on emerging formats. Advertising budgets have been slow to shift away from traditional television, and primetime viewership remains a benchmark for success in an industry obsessed with ratings. Television distribution deals with cable companies like Comcast and Charter remain huge sources of revenue for cable news networks. CNN’s new owners eliminated its streaming service in April.
Ms. Jones said MSNBC would look to build the network’s overall brand across a variety of different distribution platforms rather than focusing on traditional television, an approach echoed by Chris Licht, CNN’s new president.
“It’s no secret that cable audiences are changing, and changing rapidly,” said Ms. Jones. “It’s still a huge part of the audience that MSNBC consumes, but we’ve really focused on how we take that deep connection and take it to new places.”
Ms. Jones said that MSNBC would explore opportunities with Ms. Wagner to appear on NBCUniversal’s streaming platforms, such as Peacock and NBC News Now. Other MSNBC shows, including “Morning Joe” and “All In With Chris Hayes,” already appear on Peacock hours after they air on MSNBC’s cable channel.
Ms. Jones said that she did not consult with Ms. Maddow about her replacement. Ms. Jones said that Ms. Wagner has been on a short list to host MSNBC’s 9pm hour for months, although she declined to give specific details of the negotiations.
Ms. Wagner’s meandering journalistic career has spanned print, digital and television media. A native of Washington, DC, Ms. Wagner has worked as a cultural correspondent for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, co-host of Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus,” and on The Atlantic.
Ms. Wagner’s relationship with MSNBC dates back more than a decade. Beginning in 2011, she hosted “Now with Alex Wagner,” a weekday talk show. It was canceled in 2015 when the network shifted its daytime programming more toward straight news coverage and less of opinion.
Ms. Wagner, a 1999 graduate of Brown University, is married to Sam Kass, a former White House chef who became close friends with Barack and Michelle Obama.