Whither Keith Olbermann Now That MSNBC Is in Rearview Mirror?
That's the question facing Keith Olbermann now that his time at MSNBC has come to an abrupt end. Olbermann, who, when teamed with Dan Patrick in the 1990's turned ESPN's SportsCenter into must-see TV, announced that he was leaving Countdown, MSNBC's most popular prime-time program, at the end of Friday's show.
Neither Olbermann nor NBC News, which owns MSNBC, would say why he was leaving, though many media observers have linked the notion that NBC-Universal just this week received governmental permission to be acquired by communications giant Comcast to his stepping down. An NBC spokesman told NPR that the two items were not connected.
There still may be places for Olbermann to turn up, even back in sports. For instance, Olbermann is known in baseball circles as a historian, which could make him a prime candidate to serve as an anchor on MLB Network. Olbermann would also be an intriguing choice for a show on HBO, which could have elements of news and sports.
And despite his having been bounced from MSNBC and from a spot on Football Night in America, one wonders if a rebranded Versus or an entirely new NBC sports channel wouldn't welcome a personality like Olbermann's, even if he is anathema to conservative viewers.
Wherever Olbermann might land, he'll bring significant baggage and a reputation for being difficult to work with. He famously flamed out at ESPN, then went to FOX Sports Net, where his sports highlight show failed to gain traction against ESPN, though he also was a studio host on FOX's baseball coverage.
He joined MSNBC in 2003, and gradually molded Countdown into a liberal challenger to Fox News' prime-time lineup. Though Countdown was MSNBC's most-popular program, it never approached the ratings of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, Olbermann's principal competitors. He openly feuded with O'Reilly.
Olbermann was suspended for two days in November for contributing to Democratic candidates, a violation of NBC News policy.