Olbermann, MSNBC Started Discussing Departure Weeks Ago

A 1999 photograph of Olbermann at Fenway Park during the All-Star Game, via his Baseball Nerd blog
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A 1999 photograph of Olbermann at Fenway Park during the All-Star Game, via his Baseball Nerd blog

While Keith Olbermann's Friday night announcement during his MSNBC show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, that it would be his last program on MSNBC was a surprise, it turns out that he and MSNBC/NBC had been in talks for his exit for weeks. According to Media Decoder, the discussions were concluded on Friday—and there was a harbinger of things to come: "On Thursday, NBC’s news division staged an elaborate presentation for advertisers, seeking to sell commercial time in NBC’s news programs over the next year. All the members of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup spoke at the lunch with one exception: Keith Olbermann, the network’s biggest star."

Olbermann alluded to tensions between himself and the network in his farewell—"There were many occasions particularly in the past two and a half years where all that surrounded the show, but never the show itself, was too much for me"—but things reportedly got worse after the episode over his recent midterm election donations. Liberal watchdog group Media Matters founder David Brock told the AP, "He did more than anybody to establish the credibility of progressive views through market-driven success."

Media Decoder also reveals that Olbermann's exit deal—which apparently includes the remainder of the $30 million, four-year contract that he signed in 2008—"carries limitations for Mr. Olbermann in terms of when he can next work on television, though he will be able to take a job in radio or on any forum on the Internet. The deal also prohibits the host from commenting publicly on the deal." Which is similar to the deal that NBC worked out with Conan O'Brien exactly a year before Olbermann left.

Olbermann's Twitter account bio now says, "W A T C H T H I S S P A C E MLB.Com Baseball Nerd blog returns 2/14" (here's the blog). Olbermann was one of the celebrated early anchors of ESPN's Sportscenter, and he left the cable sports network in 1997; the Daily News reprises a quote that an ESPN executive made to USA Today, "[Olbermann] didn't burn bridges here. He napalmed them."

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