MSNBC‘s fiercely divisive, yet utterly entertaining former employee, Keith Olbermann appears to have landed his very own bully pulpit to shape in his image in the wake of his unceremonious exile.
Olbermann will be joining former vice president, Al Gore’s Current TV and will serve as the tiny station’s chief news director. The move would with absolute certainly make Olbermann the face of the network which averages a palty 23,000 viewers in prime time.
Given Olbermann’s popularity and strong liberal fanbase, those numbers are sure to increase. Of course, the cantankerous news man will have a steep uphill battle to initially approach the ratings of his former network, let alone his perpetual foil in FOX News.
The question is how did he get here? How did such an eloquent voice with an obvious passion for liberal sensibilities end up on the outside looking in? It’s commonly known that Olbermann’s fiery manner did not translate well as evidenced by his tenures with ESPN, FOX, and ultimately MSNBC.
Current seems poised to embrace the controversy that it’s mercurial newsman will most certainly engender with Gore shooting out what may be perceived as a subtle jab to Olbermann’s former network, stating to reporter’s on Tuesday, “We have more subscribers today than MSNBC had when Keith Olbermann began working for them” in 2003. Current, has approximately 60 million subscribers in the U.S.
And according to the LA Times:
MSNBC, whose management had clashed repeatedly with Olbermann prior to his exit, cried foul, with a spokesman citing Nielsen Co. data that shows MSNBC had 78.4 million subscribers in 2003.
Olbermann, in his way seized on the opportunity to rebut his former network:
Alerted to the network’s claim, an Olbermann rep fired back by pointing to “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network & Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present,” a commonly used reference book, which says that only 74% of those subscribers were in the U.S., which could conceivably give Current a slight edge.
While some may look at it as a last grasp from a fading news personality, I see this as a grand opportunity for Current, Olbermann, and cable news in general. Much like he did with MSNBC, I firmly believe that Olbermann can help his nascent new network rise to prominence. The key here is Olbermann’s unparalleled ability to work tirelessly. There is a reason that despite his reportedly unmalleable disposition, he still managed to find work on nearly every major network, including two stints with MSNBC.
Ambitiously speaking, Current has a unique opportunity to cover and opine on news without the specter of a corporate pall perpetually cast over proceedings. In the end, this situation may be exactly what the unbridled Olbermann needed after repeatedly being reprimanded on many an occasion. Olbermann will even be afforded the opportunity to donate to political campaigns, a transgression which lead to his controversial suspension from MSNBC last year.
According to TIME:
We did get clarity on whether Olbermann will be allowed to donate to political candidates, which got him in trouble at MSNBC: yes—”Freedom of speech includes the ability to donate to candidates of your choice,” Gore said—but he’ll also need to disclose. (It helps that Olbermann will essentially be his own boss.)
Olbermann is in a prime position to do something new and if for no other reason than to see him fail, people will watch.