As the inevitable blog posts, comments in blogs and news stories come out suggesting that MSNBC’s now-departed “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann may have parted ways with his network because COMCAST merged with NBC and has it in for liberals, a new report suggests Olbermann was ready to leave and may have left to create his own media empire.
It was Keith Olbermann’s decision to leave his high-profile perch at MSNBC, TheWrap has learned. The outspoken host abruptly announced his departure on Friday evening, sending shock waves through the cable news world.
But the sudden departure has a history, and the timing does not rule out a preemptive MSNBC move. The gadfly commentator first told the network last April that he wanted to leave and began negotiating his exit then, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation.
Olbermann abandoned the notion of leaving at that time but revived his plans in recent weeks with new representation from the talent agency ICM.
With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.
This is not a wild interpretation of what may have gone on behind the scenes amid increasing reports that Olbermann did not simply get the boot but both he and the network were parting ways. After all Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and most assuredly Bill O’Reilly have far extensive media presences than Olbermann, who has published some fun to read books that were basically collections of his MSNBC commentaries.
I haven’t weighed in on Olbermann yet on TMV, but I’ve always found him one of the more fascinating opinion-anchored hosts. In one sense he is similar to his nemisis Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly since like O’Reilly he is excellent newsman when he decides to take off his outrage/ideological hat. He was a superb sportscaster (just as O’Reilly was a highly professional broadcast newsman).
But as I have said before : Olbermann’s schitck did not wear well. The Special Comments were meaningfull when they truly were special. But after a while the outrage got tiresome and like so many of those who do programs on Fox and MSNBC you just KNEW how he would react to an issue and cover it before you even turned on this show.I
But if he does create his own media empire, what will he call it?
The Olbermann Post a la the Huffington Post?
Daily Olbermann a la Daily Kos?
(We just KNOW one of the conservative TMV readers will suggest “Red Olbermann” a la Red State in comments. Or maybe he’ll change his approach and he can be The Moderate Olbermann.)
If he debuts on the Internet expect him to debut big and get lots of readers.
ALSO OF NOTE:
—The New Yorker’s Peter Boyer:
As I recounted in a Profile of Olbermann in 2008, the one constant in Olbermann’s broadcasting career has been his ability to exasperate the boss; he is a true original, who brought to the job rare talent and a singular disagreeability, in nearly equal measure. In time, the disagreeability has always tipped the scale. When Olbermann was briefly suspended last fall for violating NBC’s rules barring its journalists from making campaign contributions, network executives let it be known that they were already happily imagining a future without Olbermann. They had his replacement, Larry O’Donnell, already in place, and O’Donnell now has the gig.
As for Olbermann’s future, there was a good deal of speculation about that, too. Some supposed that he would be recruited by CNN, which could certainly use the audience infusion he would bring, and it even has been suggested that he may go to Fox News (an end-of-times signal if ever there was one). It also has been reported that Olbermann would use his $14 million MSNBC payout to start his own media venture. Given his history of driving his bosses crazy, the prospect of Olbermann working for himself is by far the most intriguing possibility.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.