According to bloomberg.com, Last night’s show was the final “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” the cable network said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Talks to end the host’s contract have been under way for awhile, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
Olbermann’s exit deprives the network of its top-rated prime-time program. The 51-year-old host clashed with his bosses in November over political donations that raised questions about advocacy and journalism. He was suspended for violating NBC News policy and reinstated after two days.
“There were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show, but never the show itself, was just too much for me,” Olbermann told the audience. “But your support and loyalty, if I may use the word, insistence, ultimately required that I keep going.”
Olbermann, who promoted his own political viewpoint on “Countdown,” also hosted MSNBC’s election-night coverage. Michael Price, his manager, didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Led by Olbermann and other liberal voices such as Rachel Maddow, MSNBC moved past CNN into second place behind Fox News in cable-news ratings, said Brad Adgate, who oversees research at Horizon Media, an advertising company in New York.
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In recent weeks, sources tell Mediaite there have been meetings on the topic of Keith Olbermann and his future at the network.
Did Comcast–as many Countdown viewers seem to suspect–order Olbermann out? It appears that the end of the Olbermann era at MSNBC was not “ordered” by Comcast, nor was it a move to tone down the network’s politics.
Instead, sources inside the network say it came down to the more mundane world of office politics–Olbermann was a difficult employee, who clashed with bosses, colleagues and underlings alike, and with the Comcast-related departure of Jeff Zucker, and the rise of Maddow and O’Donnell, the landscape shifted, making an Olbermann exit suddenly seem well-timed.
MSNBC announced that O'Donnell, who had frequently filled in for Olbermann before starting his own 10 p.m. show, will take over Olbermann's time slot starting Monday. The Ed Show, with Ed Schultz, will move to 10 p.m. Cenk Uygur of the Web show The Young Turks will fill Schultz's vacated 6 p.m. time slot.
It's unclear what Olbermann's plans are now.
According to deadline.com, The moves are simultaneous with new owner Comcast starting to show its hand over the broadcast network and cable NBCU after receiving FCC approval. "He's been very problematic," an NBCU source told Deadline about Comcast's attitude to Olbermann.
Officially, the Comcast takeover is next week. But word has been circulating for months now that the new owners have wanted to "tinker" with MSNBC and had many changes in store, including a right turn for the left-wing cable channel so that it represents both political points of view more evenly.
It is well known that both Comcast chief Brian Roberts and NBCU chief Steve Burke have donated heavily to the Republican party with Burke more recently donating money to a few Democrats as well as heavily to Republicans. Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention while Burke raised at least $200,000 for George W Bush’s re-election campaign.
Paul Farhi at washingtonpost.com reports Olbermann did not announce any professional plans Friday night, though he would appear to be an attractive hire for CNN, whose new program at 8 p.m., "Parker/Spitzer," has been troubled by low ratings and reported problems between its anchors, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker.
CNN, however, has been loath to feature the kinds of fiery, partisan personalities that Fox and MSNBC have put on the air.
Farhi writes Olbermann has clashed with his employers many times in his television career and has hopped from network to network. He walked away as host of ESPN's "SportsCenter" in the late 1990s after five years to join the fledgling MSNBC as the host of a news program, but he tired of MSNBC's insistence that he focus on the Monica Lewinsky scandal each night.
Olbermann then left to join Fox Sports Net, where he lasted just more than two years. He was briefly employed by CNN before jumping back to MSNBC in 2003. The nearly eight years he spent at MSNBC were the longest he spent in one place in 32 years as a broadcaster.
Tom's Take: Will KO show-up on CNN? Not anytime soon. KO probably has a non-compete which he will honor to collect the $14-million MSNBC still owes him for two years of his contract. Most likely, some liberal website will stream a KO show, maybe a site like Media Matters