What caused the MSNBC / Olbermann split?

After nearly eight years on-air, MSNBC pundit Keith Olbermann abruptly cut ties with the network. Photo: Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Seemingly out of the blue, MSNBC newsman Keith Olbermann abruptly ended his show, “Countdown,” making Friday’s Jan. 21 show his final program for the cable news channel.

Keith Olbermann (AP Photo)

Details are cloudy on what exactly happened between pundit and network.  MSNBC put out a typical non-informational press release stating, “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract.  MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

So what exactly happened? 

Multiple outlets are blaming the NBC/Comcast merger as the cause of the breakup.

Radaronline.com reports Olbermann was told he’d been fired just hours before Friday’s broadcast.  A Comcast spokesperson stated, however, “we pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.”

Back in Nov. MSNBC suspended Olbermann for a what turned out to be an extended weekend, after donating  $2,400 each to Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, and to Kentucky Senate contender Jack Conway without authorization from the network.

New York “Times’” Bill Carter claims the exit was “weeks in the making.” Interestingly enough, Carter adds, the Olbermann deal was made a year to the day that NBC decided to end Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” run.

“Entertainment Weekly” claims Olbermann may have a Hollywood consultant gig lined up with Aaron Sorkin’s (“The Social Network”) next television project for HBO which is about a cable news show.

TMZ reports that the former “Sports Center” anchor will pocket in excess of $7 million, which would cover the last two years of his contract.  The exit deal may also include one of those Conan O’Brien-esque “prohibited by television” clauses for an undisclosed term.  He will be, however, free to work on the Internet and radio without penalty.

Was Olbermann that big of a thorn in the side of MSNBC that a big payoff was best option?  Are we to believe the Comcast deal had nothing to do with the decision? Olbermann has yet to comment and don’t hold your breath waiting for one.

Filling the Olberman void will be “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” which takes over the 8 p.m. ET slot immediately, Monday, Jan. 24. Ed Schultz to will move into the 10 p.m. vacancy. 

Read more of Craig’s work at The TV DEN in the Communities at the Washington Times.

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Craig Sanger

A broadcast journalism graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, Craig Sanger is film critic for Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH-TV, morning radio host on KATT-FM, and staff writer at distinctly Oklahoma Magazine. 

Craig is a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow Craig on Twitter.

Contact Craig Sanger


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