Brian Williams “thinks he has one more swing at bat” in the TV business and is talking to a variety of networks — including ABC — which could cause big issues with their star anchors David Muir and George Stephanopoulos.
Multiple TV insiders say that while Williams, 62 — who just announced he would be leaving NBC News after nearly 30 years at the end of December — is not supposed to be negotiating with others while still under contract, some informal discussions with rival networks and streaming services have taken place.
And those close to the tarnished former “Nightly News” anchor insist that he may even want to go back to the business that got him into hot water in the first place — entertainment and comedy.
One source said, “People forget that Brian is really funny, he’s always wanted to do an interview show that gives him room to have fun. He likes to do profiles and interviews — even though that is what got him into trouble.” He was a regular on the late-night chat shows over the years, showing off his comic chops, and telling his “misremembered” stories.
And even though “Lyin’ Brian” was given a soft landing at MSNBC with an 11 p.m. show after he was ousted by NBC News in 2015 for embellishing stories of his journalistic valor, sources said he felt underappreciated at MSNBC.
Williams announced on Tuesday that he had decided not to sign another contract, that he plans to take a few months off, but, “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere.”
The source added that his decision to leave MSNBC was partly because of a pay cut, and mostly, “Because he wasn’t being looked after at MSNBC. You’ve got to take care of the talent. He’ll probably go to a streaming service next, he wants to do his own thing.”
A second source confirmed that at MSNBC, “Brian saw the writing on the wall,” noting that Williams’ contract is up in a month and he feels he can get a better gig elsewhere. “He thinks he put MSNBC back on the map. In his eyes, he has one more shot. He still views himself as a world-class, primetime anchor.”
Although Williams’ hefty salary may be a deterrent to some networks, everyone is coming out of the woodwork, the source said, adding that “everybody has reached out, including ABC.”
While that doesn’t mean “ABC World News” host Muir will get unseated, it may mean that the network could create a show for Williams at a different time slot, along with the opportunity to get involved in streaming or digital projects. ABC didn’t comment.
The same could be true at CBS, although some sources have said that Williams’ salary requirements may be too lofty for the network.
Other sources insist Williams is close friends with CNN boss Jeff Zucker and could end up over there, where they’re working to launch a new streaming service, CNN+, early next year
“Whatever his new job is, it is not going to be at 11 o’clock,” added the source of Williams. “This is his last swing at-bat. He’s going to do this right.”
Meanwhile, Ali Velshi and Tom Llamas are two names that have been floated as possible replacements for Williams at 11 p.m. at MSNBC.
A rep for Williams did not get back to us.