Not 24 hours has elapsed since Keith Olbermann shocked the cable news world by announcing that Countdown has reached ignition and been lifted off the MSNBC schedule. And due to the vague explanations offered by the principals, the public is left to their imagination as to what happened.
Today The Wrap is reporting that the move was entirely driven by Olbermann’s desire to become an Internet media baron:
“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.”
Why not? It seems like everybody’s doing it.
Back in the day Matt Drudge, a small-time scandal monger, began publishing his conjecture-laden tabloid, The Drudge Report. Then his spawn, the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, followed with his BigWhatever network of outright lie sites. Tucker Carlson, the Biggest Loser (who may hold the Guinness record for the number of times he’s been canceled) launched his Daily Caller. Former MSNBC chief Dan Abrams founded Mediaite. Even Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon and lit up The Blaze, an appropriate masthead for a purveyor of incendiary rhetoric.
Still the leader in this parade of personality-driven press is The Huffington Post. If Olbermann chooses this model for an online presence it could be profoundly rewarding. He has a built-in following that already resides in cyberspace. He would have no problem attracting investors. He could cover the issues that interest him most and would be free to appear on any television network to discuss the stories he breaks online.
One minor point, last year Tucker Carlson boasted that he had acquired the domain name, keitholbermann.com. It was a typically puerile act on Carlson’s part that was also brazenly hypocritical. Read the whole sordid story here. Olbermann may have to retrieve his name from Carlson, but that shouldn’t be difficult under the current regulations of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the agency governing such matters.
I, for one, would be thrilled to see the launch of the Olbermann Observer Online. But as with everything else that has been written about his future since the surprise announcement, this story is not verified by any authoritative source. Howard Kurtz is saying the separation was the inevitable result of frayed relations between Olbermann and MSNBC management (i.e. the reprehensible Phil Griffin). And the suggestion that Olbermann initiated the departure doesn’t square with his statement that he was “told” that last night was “going to be the last edition” of his show.
MSNBC has already announced schedule changes to shore up the Olbermann hole. Lawrence O’Donnell is moving up to Olbermann’s 8:00pm slot. Ed Schultz will go to primetime to replace O’Donnell at 10:00pm. And Cenk Uygur will fill in for Schultz at 6:00pm.
If it were up to me I’d make additional daytime adjustments as well. There is no reason for two episodes of Chris Matthews’ Hardball in the afternoon. His ratings certainly don’t warrant the real estate. I’d let him have 7:00pm and give the 5:00pm slot to recently retired congressman Alan Grayson, where he would be on opposite Glenn Beck. That’s a ratings war I’d love to see.