William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Keith Olbermann finished at MSNBC

    Liberals and the Twitters are all abuzz after it was announced that Keith Olbermann taped his last "Countdown" show on MSNBC tonight and will be leaving the network. While immediate speculation was made about Comcast's purchase of NBC being why, thus far, no reason has been given. The exit was so swift, MSNBC continued to rum promos for "Countdown" after the announcement was made.

    Last year, Olbermann tweeted that he believed a Comcast takeover would make NBC "more liberal." However, Fox News demagogue Glenn Beck made a shockingly prescient statement in November, stating Olbermann would never survive a Comcast takeover.

    The press release from MSNBC stated simply:

    MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

    Olbermann made millions of friends and just as many enemies while at MSNBC, as his razor-sharp wit and blunt assessments made him a must-see TV for many liberals. His "Special Comment" series made numerous headlines, especially during the Bush era.

    While the mystery will soon be resolved as to why Olbermann and MSNBC parted ways, one thing to remember is this - Olbermann has long beena nomad in broadcasting. From being a local sportscaster, to his time at ESPN, and now MSNBC, Olbermann has regularly dazzled with his brilliance, only to leave.

    My take? Olbermann has never shown that he plays well with others, especially those in authority. While the Left is losing a strong voice, his departure had to have been expected by any that have followed his career, especially following his recent clashes with MSNBC management.

    More at Crooks & Liars, including video.





    I was just watching and am absolutely horrified and shocked!

    Keith gave no indication whatsoever about why the show is over.  Unless someone provides a very compelling reason why it is otherwise the timing of this sudden end and the fact that Comcast just tookover is more than mere coincidence.  I thought when they suspended him over the contributions that it was just a matter of time before he got axed.  This is just horrible!  When nobody else in the country with any sort of real media platform had any balls at all Keith Olbermann stood up and objected to the insane and illegal wars, the usurpation of powers by the executive branch, the repressive domestic spying regime, torture and all the other rotten developments of the past 8 or so years.  Obviously, Maddow will be next to go but this sort of ham handed smack down of the leading progressive voice in the media needs to be met with serious public anger.  This is a simply shocking development though we sholdn't be surprised by anything in this era of tyranny from our ruling elite.

    I for one won't be watching anything else on Com-er-I mean MSNBC at the 8pm hr. The ratings can go to hell for all I care. Serves comcast right. This is outrageous!

    Ditto for me!  I won't watch whatever they put in his place either and I hope MSNBC and Comcast go down in flames as they deserve to!  Sadly, I think this is just their opening move.  Maddow will be next no doubt, then Ed.

    Lawrence O'Donnell is taking the 8 o'clock slot, Ed is moving to 10 o'clock, and there are rumors that Cenk will be on at 6.

    Lawrence O'Statusquo?  He sucks!  Watching him is torture.  Keith got him his show.  If he had any honor he would refuse to take the slot.

    Have to disagree.  Lawrence is a must-see for me.  He knows the WH and the halls of congress better than any other commentator and knows exactly what they're up to.  Plus he's great at taking down the high and mighty.  He's a treasure.

    Your take on Odonnell doesn't surprise.  You couldn't find a bigger apologist for the status quo.  I cannot stand him and his smug insiderism.  But hey, if you like even more of that crap, fine with me.

    Likewise.  Fine with me if you don't like him.  Just thought you should know your opinion isn't the Last Word.

    O'Donnell is a corporatist tool.

    I had it on but was only half listening until he said this will be the final edition of Countdown.  Then he went to commercial, and I thought it was his idea of a joke and all would be explained when he came back.  I couldn't believe it.  Went to Twitter and found it, yes, abuzz.  What a shocker.

    He'll land on his feet and come back stronger.  But I'm getting shivers from the chilling effect.

    And I think that really is the point here too Ramona: the chilling effect.  They're sending a message to all those troublesome liberal voices and it's not friendly.

    I am appalled that Keith Olbermann has been axed.  Why has MSNBC done such an idiotic thing?  While I am still trying to catch my breath at this terrible news, I KNOW that Mr. Olbermann will be back soon in some other form... and I look forward to that day ! 

    It is a very sad day in America.  Until I discovered Countdown with Keith Olbermann I was in the dark about what Washington DC was all about.  I will miss this Truth Teller, I hope he finds another venue to continue and that I find him.

    Josh Marshall was on during the early part of Countdown.  Here's his take on it:


    I forgot that poor Josh is also losing his rather regular appearances on Countdown. Oh well, Josh's 15 minutes of TV fame stretched on too long anyway. He needs to stick to his, now mostly non-interactive, blog. What goes around comes around. :)

    Interesting that just now as I was reading comments posted on this site, MSNBC played Keith Olbermann's spot ad that is part of their "Lean Forward" campaign.  About 45 minutes after he announced his departure from the network.  Perhaps Keith is leaning further forward than the network.

    Keith will be missed.  But not for long.  I am sure he will turn up again on the air very soon.  We need to hear what he has to say.  And we appreciate the point of view he expresses amidst the sea of conservative sea of broadcasts and lies the airwaves and cable are infected with.

    Keith, get back on the air and tell us what we need to hear.  SOON!!!

    Here's the video. 

    I will miss his intellectual verbiage and non apologetic support of Dems. I will not miss his "potty" mouth. Unfortunately he spewed more hate per minute than any pundit on TV news. But, he gave me comic relief knowing that only the Tree-hugging, authority hating slugs of society were inspired. I will miss the Countdown Comedy Hour.

    I guess you don't watch Fox then?  You don't know hatred and spewing until you've watched Fox.

    Palmetto?  As in South Carolina?  Home of sedition and treason?

    And Appalachian Trail walking governors.

    My take? Olbermann has never shown that he plays well with others, especially those in authority.

    I can relate since I am strongly anti-authoritarian myself.

    Hey, I'm with you. I'm the worst lol

    Where do we contribute to Keith Olberman for U. S Senate to replace Joe Leiberman?

    How about for President?  We could use an actual Democrat in the White House for a change.

    I love that idea! Who wouldn't watch a debate between Keith Olbermann and Linda McMahon? hahaha

    Olbermann has never shown that he plays well with others, especially those in authority.

    Did the thought ever occur to anyone that was the message all along?

    We give into authority too much. We don't ask. We just accept what we're told. We never question. We never demand a straight answer. In short, we never task those in the media to deliver information in an intellectual format that isn't ripe with spin and innuendo flavored by the political entities intent on manipulating public opinion in favor of a specific political outcome.

    Well, KO's track record isn't just giving agita to the bosses. He also has a long history, which I've heard him acknowledge, of being extremely hard on co-workers and subordinates. We're talking about a man who made other adults weep while he was doing his dumbass sports news show. I enjoy SportsCenter, but it's not worth messing with other people's emotional welfare to produce.

    I'm all for strong liberal voices in the media, and I'm very unhappy to see one less, but Olbermann's mistreatment of people who work for him isn't limited to his peers, or his superiors, and it hasn't grown out of his noble mission. He was horrible to everyone around him when he was just doing sports entertainment.

    Didn't know bout that. It's one thing to be aggressive in your view point, but that doesn't give one license to mistreat people. So his message may have been tempered for the audience, but the methods he employed to carry them out were extreme. Now I have to re-evaluate what he's said in the past in the same light as Fox News. Thanks for setting me straight.

    I strongly doubt that the way Olbermann treated people on or off set had anything to do with Comcast's decision. Except that they're happy he isn't perfect because that gives them a little cover.

    Actually, I don't think for a second that it *did* have anything to do with the end of his contract. The higher-ups in TV really don't care about that. Stars emotionally damaging the production assistants doesn't bother the executives at all.

    But I did want to put Wolfie's "doesn't play well with others" in its full context, and not have it simplified into a narrative of Sticking It to the Man. Olbermann has stuck it to various men, various times, and I'm all for that. But he's also a difficult personality.

    Point taken.

    Not "taped" his last program.  It was quite live.  Read both Josh's post and  somewhere Jonathan Alter's shocked report that he saw no sign of any of this, except Keith's oblique "thanks for everything" as he walked off set as the last guest. 

    I wonder whether Keith started the broadcast not knowing it would be hs last, but suspecting it could be based on whatever settlement had been reached.  Broadcasters, as he suggested, like to hold off telling "talent" that this is their last prgram, lest it turn into the "Network" moment to which Keith adverted.  (I particularly recall WQEW's end as  standards radio station in New York City, managing to go under without giving Jonathan Schwartz a chance to go ballistic on the air, as he likely would have done.)  Josh makes note of a few extra people on set, though he is not sure that that was unusual.  If it was, it was to make sure Keith did not Boyle the moment.

    But we do not know the details and I suspect Keith got paid a lot of money not to tell us the details.

    Some day, because he is who he is, he will tell us the story, probably more than once, but it may be a few years until he does.


    Olbermann’s MSNBC Exit Was Weeks in the Making
    By BILL CARTER January 22, 2011, 2:48 pm



    Back in August 2010, Keith Olbermann was feeling good about the impending NBC-Comcast merger. "I think this augurs well for all of us here," he told me one afternoon in his corner office at 30 Rock, adding that Comcast is in the "television money-making business, and in fact, the cable money-making business."


    Keith Olbermann Is Leaving MSNBC, by Gabriel Sherman, "The Daily Inte"l @ New York Magazine, 1/21/11 at 11:25 PM


    More similar as the Times' from similar sources though less detailed:

    Olbermann's split with MSNBC may have been long in the making

    By Paul Farhi
    Washington Post, January 22, 2011; 8:35 PM

    ...Olbermann and MSNBC are operating under an exit agreement, the product of lengthy negotiations, that limits each side from commenting publicly, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. The agreement also ties Olbermann to a "non-compete" provision that will prevent him from appearing on a competing TV network for an undisclosed period....

    and then this from a less trustworthy site but also one that does specialize in being able to get inside info. on such things, an explanation that does fit well with all of the above, and with the abruptness, and also syncs with the exit of  his "protector" Jeff Zucker:

    Keith Olbermann's Exit -- Secret Deal

    1/22/2011 10:00 AM PST by TMZ Staff 

    Keith Olbermann saw the handwriting on the wall with the new owner of NBC and cut a deal for his exit that will give him money and options -- sources tell TMZ.

    Here's how it went down. Sources familiar with the situation tell us that Olbermann's agent recently went to NBC complaining that Keith -- who has the most popular show on MSNBC -- was underpaid at $7 million per year. NBC execs told Olbermann's agent they would not cough up anymore money.

    Network execs were well aware that Comcast wanted Keith gone because he was "a loose cannon that could not be controlled." It became clear to both sides that Olbermann's days were numbered and they began negotiating an exit.

    We're told the exit deal wasn't completed until just before airtime Friday night.

    Under the deal, sources say Olbermann will get money but cannot appear on television for a certain period time -- we don't know how long.

    Our sources say Olbermann will, however, reappear soon with a presence on the Internet.

    And see Flavius' reasoning here in his reader blog on Dagblog, which also fits with all of the above.

    And again with more detail and embellishment--turns out he just got himself a new agent, and a powerful one in the entertainment biz I have no idea how trustworthy this site is, but this is really the Hollywood biz, kids (cable TV news became part of it--entertainment--when Ted Turner left,)  where you have someone creating this buzz on purpose, like agents for highly paid "news" anchors and pundits:

    Did Keith Olbermann Bolt MSNBC to Create Media Empire?
    Published: January 21, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

    By Dominic Patten & Sharon Waxman, The Wrap--Covering Hollywood

    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.....

    Some of you might be disappointed to think of Olbermann as a celebrity selling himself and having an agent to plot his career ambitions and doing what that agent thinks best, thinking of him as someone with more high minded principles. I am not surprised as I always saw an entertainer/sportscaster first, who happened to be enjoying a chance to influence political media according to his own political preferences, but sitll someone with personal celebrity ambition over all, Certainly not a Walter Cronkite type,definitely more Ariana Huffington.

    Hmm. ICM is big. Who was his previous agent?

    Some quick googling says Jean Sage at TV Talent/Napoli Management Group for many years:

    here in June 1997 representing him in switch from ESPN to his first stint at MSNBC:


    here April 19, 2005 she's doing damage control for him:



    here cited on chart April 18, 2008 as becoming Maddow's agent as well as his right before she joins MSNBC because of him:


    here's someone on a discussion on the "Keith Olberman Fan Forum", a thread about the November 2010 controversy, saying Sports Journal on October 4, 2010 says he just signed with ICM, the commenter also says he "probably still retains Jean":


    The commenter also says Nick Kahn is the ICM agent that signed him:

    Here's  Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast  November 14, 2010 on the same November 2010 controversy in extreme detail, titling it "Vicious Infighting at NBC News," someone leaking all kinds of stuff to him about the related meetings with the new agents included, someone who obviously is no fan of Olbermann's tenure there:

    ....The fault lines became clear the day after Labor Day, when Olbermann’s new management team—Ted Chervin and Nick Kahn of the Hollywood super-agency ICM, and Price—met in Jeff Zucker’s spacious, 52nd-floor office at 30 Rock. ...   

    Here's an intereview with Ted Chervin, introducing him as "cutthroat" enough to be a major player in the agent business because he's a former New York Assistant DA, and says as of late 2006, he is "Co-head of worldwide television, ICM, Los Angeles":


    The above is confirmed in a NYT piece today,  see my link to it at bottom of the thread. In the last several months, he got rid of his old agent and hired ICM to help him negotiate outta there (and probably plan his new career moves as well.) And as Barth notes right above that, this is also confirmed by his public announcement: that he had not been happy there for quite some time.

    If you're Comcast, having people on your shows who complain about your business model, as well as talk about other annoyingly liberal issues, is unnecessary and destructive. Especially if those people do it well enough to get large numbers of other people on their corporation-critiquing, liberal-issues bandwagon. It's just a pain, you know?

    In the big picture, the profit generated by the relatively measly number of liberal viewers is not worth what it costs you and your other corporate "competitors" to lobby against them on issue after issue, especially if you count the cost of opposing Liberals on issues important to viewers/voters who are generally supportive of your agenda.

    Bottom line: putting Liberals on your shows just gets them all worked up about opposing the corporate agenda, and that, my friends, is bad for profit. Given that it's proven that people will watch pretty much any old crap that you and your corporate "competitors" put up, why broadcast any free speech other than the kind that supports corporate goals? Especially if the FCC isn't going to stand their ground on that whole "public interest" thing, at least not in any way that matters? I mean really, why would you? So the thing to do is to get rid of the Liberals.

    Here's how this came down in my opinion: Olbermann knew that once Comcast took over MSNBC, Liberalism's days were numbered on the network, and that even if he tried to continue, he'd be unbearably squeezed. So he started looking for the best deal by which to end his contract. Knowing that Comcast would probably rather give away money than concessions, he asked for a huge amount of cash and reasonable rights to pursue his career after the severance, knowing that he might not get them. Comcast said they'd think about it.

    Comcast didn't let Olbermann know that they'd do the deal until the day of the show. Then they called Olbermann, told him that they'd give him all the money and none of the concession, and made it clear that he had exactly x number of minutes/hours to put together his sign-off. They also made it clear that if they didn't like what he said, he could consider himself fired, people were ready to escort him off the set at the end of the show and they'd spend almost any amount to make sure that he walked away with as little as possible. Olbermann took the deal.

    So what does this "don't let the screen door hit you in the pooper on the way out" approach tell us, literally and in "underspeak?"

    1. Liberalism is out at MSNBC.
    The message to pro-corporate elements is that they're bringing things into line.
    The message to viewers/pundits is that MSNBC is being purged of pinko-commies and will soon be safe for reg'ler Americans again, especially if reg'ler Americans step up the pressure to get Maddow and Schultz out of there.

    2. Maddow, Schultz and other Liberal voices will be tolerated only as long as their success is limited enough to not trouble the folks at corporate.
    The moment they succeed in raising enough opposition to business goals to make things uncomfortable for the corporation (s?), they'll be taken out by any means necessary, including but not limited to, the approach taken with Olbermann.
    This is brilliant positioning by Comcast because it can now be implied that anything Maddow/Schultz et al. say or do is motivated either by petulance at Comcast over Olbermann's firing, or by a desire to keep their jobs: their credibility can and will be questioned by everyone who can be paid/bamboozled into questioning it.

    Really, what can Maddow/Schultz do except look elsewhere for employment?

    I hope I'm wrong about the larger forces at work here, but I'm afraid I may not be.

    On the other hand, maybe Olbermann fell on his sword to make it LOOK like Comcast wasn't interested in broadcasting a variety of opinions. Can I have a show of hands, please?

    I thought this was funny coming from Fox Braodcasting's scheduler of prime time entertainment programming who may or may not be destor.



    Peope's read his comment carefully.  He was unhappy.  I am certain he did not ewant to return after the suspension.  I suspect it was less his political views than that he does not like being told what to do.  That was his right, but until he owns a cable compnay, his rights have limits:


    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. But your support and loyalty — if I may use the word insistence — ultimately required that I keep going.



    Olbermann Split Came After Years of Tension
    New York Times,  January 23, 2011


    ....underlying the decision, which one executive involved said was not a termination but a “negotiated separation,” were years of behind-the-scenes tension, conflicts and near terminations....

    Inside the offices of MSNBC, staff members grew more restive about Mr. Olbermann’s temperament. Some days Mr. Olbermann threatened not to come to work at all and a substitute anchor had to be notified to be on standby...

    ....stories about Mr. Olbermann’s thin skin circulated widely in the newsroom. One such story, which was recalled independently by two hosts, dates to early December, when Mr. O’Donnell, then carving out some success as the 10 p.m. host on MSNBC, collegially proposed via e-mail that Mr. Olbermann come on his show to talk about President Obama’s tax-cut compromise.

    Mr. O’Donnell had written this post on Twitter: “Liberal critics of the Obama deal say exactly what Pat Buchanan said of George H. W. Bush: he’s weak.” The message speculated that Mr. Obama’s critics would do to him what Mr. Buchanan “did to H.W. Bush: destroy him and help elect a president from the other party.”

    Mr. Olbermann apparently interpreted the message as a personal attack; he declined to appear on Mr. O’Donnell’s show. “I saw what you wrote on Twitter,” he snapped at Mr. O’Donnell.


    In the last several months, the relationship began moving toward its denouement: Mr. Olbermann hired new agents from the big firm ICM in September, parting from Jean Sage, the agent who had steered his career through all its previous rocky shoals. Several NBC executives said the move was made to facilitate an eventual settlement of the two years left on Mr. Olbermann’s contract.

    Mr. Olbermann’s future is up in the air, mainly because he agreed to a deal that would keep him off television for six to nine months, according to several executives involved in his exit. He is also apparently forbidden to discuss his departure.

    One NBC executive involved in the decision to settle Mr. Olbermann’s contract said that he was allowed to work in radio or on the Internet and would presumably be free to return to television in time for the 2012 election cycle.....


    Hmm, well maybe I can tuck away that post about the crumbling of free speech on the tee vee for another day....

    Interesting research, artappraiser. That Ted C sounds lilke just the kind of guy a person hopes their sister never starts to date!

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