I think you are dismissing MSNBC’s strategy by giving them the benefit of the doubt with regard to their position as a journalistic enterprise. They’re not journalism; they’re cable news. There is a major difference.
MSNBC is not motivated by integrity or truth. It exists as a corporate entity to generate profits. Any organization devoted to truth relies on things like competency in reporting facts, not on an array of multi-millionaire TV news celebrities to draw in viewers. This is important to remember when analyzing the decisions of MSNBC.
MSNBC knows this about itself. It knows it is not a legitimate journalistic enterprise. It knows that it cannot compete with independent media when it comes to capturing the interest and attention of young people on the left. These are the same young people who preferred the anti-establishment platform of Sanders to the establishment rhetoric of Clinton; they are more interested in facts and issues than entertainment and personalities.
MSNBC is also aware of the epic meltdown that has transpired at Fox News. Fox News has been shedding celebrity talent, has lost its creator, and has gotten mired in a series of scandals. Fox News is on the way out, but it still draws a huge audience of old people who will sit in front of a television and watch it. Since MSNBC knows it cannot compete on the left, it is a sensible business decision for it to try to take over the right, capturing the audience the failing Fox News leaves behind.
What you are seeing at MSNBC is its corporate, profit-driven mentality piloting the ship. You may have believed at some point in hisotry that MSNBC was an organization devoted to things like journalism and information, and vestiges of that impression may still be coloring how you view their decision-making process today, but I see MSNBC’s actions as entirely predictable and reasonable when you take MSNBC for the entertainment company it is.