MSNBC was started on July 15, 1996. The first show was anchored by Jodi Applegate and included news, conferences, and analysis. Throughout the day, rolling news coverage continued with The Contributors, a show that featured Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, as well as interactive programming organized by Applegate, John Gibson, and John Seigenthaler. Stories were usually longer and more detailed than the stories CNN was covering. NBC also highlighted their broadcast connections by airing stories straight from NBC’s network members, along with breaking news coverage from the same sources.
MSNBC slowly expanded its emphasis on politics. After finishing its seven-year survey of cable channels, the Project for Excellence in Journalism said in 2007 that, “MSNBC is moving to perform politics a brand, with a huge dose of opinion and personality.”
In January 2001, Mike Barnicle’s MSNBC show began, but it was dropped in June 2001 because of high production prices. In June, Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said that he would not have started MSNBC had he anticipated the challenge of attracting viewers.
After the September 11, 2001 event, NBC used MSNBC as an outlet for the up-to-the-minute coverage being produced by NBC News as an addition to the longer stories on broadcast NBC. With little business news to cover, CNBC and CNBC Europe ran MSNBC for several hours each day following the attacks. The year also increased the profile of Ashleigh Banfield, who was present during the destruction of Building 7 while covering the World Trade Center on September 11. Her Region In Conflict program obtained on her newfound celebrity and showcased exclusive interviews from Afghanistan.