At issue is whether Keith Olbermann controls the 8 PM (ET) time slot on Current — or just his show, Countdown With Keith Olbermann, which typically fills the hour. I’m told that the commentator and his powerhouse lawyer Patricia Glaser are reviewing his contract to decide how to proceed after Current preempted his show last night to cover the Republican caucuses in Iowa with Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, and Cenk Uygur. Olbermann isn’t on board yet to contribute to next week’s coverage of the New Hampshire primary, although Current still wants him to participate. But something would have to give: The control issue was a big deal for Olbermann last year when he left MSNBC and joined Current as an anchor and chief news officer. Current also believes that it has the right to shape its coverage of special events, and has a unique opportunity this year to make a splash by having Gore — a former vice president, and the channel’s co-founder – as part of the mix.
The rift has been building since mid-November when Current president David Bohrman broached the idea of having Olbermann lead the network’s team coverage. The commentator opted to have Countdown run per usual and said on his December 22 broadcast that he’d be back after the holidays “live, live, live” for the Iowa caucus results. Olbermann continued with his plan until yesterday when Read More »
UPDATE, 8:10 PM:Reached late Thursday, Rosenthal said “Joel and I always had a great collaboration and we remain close friends. And Joel was instrumental in negotiating for Keith Olbermann to come to Current.”
PREVIOUS, 4:15 PM: Mark Rosenthal decided to leave because Joel Hyatt was crowding him in, we’re told. The co-founder wanted to run Current again after Rosenthal recruited Keith Olbermann to come on board. The channel began to generate a lot of buzz as its focus shifted to news commentary and politics as opposed to long form non-fiction programming. Hyatt’s desire to run the operation reached the point where he and Rosenthal agreed a few months ago to be co-CEOs, although the company didn’t announce that change. But the the channel’s too small to require two chiefs. What’s more, Rosenthal had held bigger jobs by himself when he was CEO of Interpublic Media and COO of MTV Networks. He was a board member at Current when Hyatt asked him to step in and professionalize the programming, marketing, affiliate sales, ad sales, and research efforts at the channel that used to be based in San Francisco. Olbermann’s said to be upset by Rosenthal’s decision to leave his job and the Current board. But even Current’s most famous personality doesn’t have the clout to overrule Hyatt.
PREVIOUS, 3:03 PM: Current TV has just released this statement about its CEO Mark Rosenthal leaving the network, a little more than a month after the premiere of the revamping network’s new flagship news show Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Co-founder Joel Hyatt is replacing him. The statement: Read More »
Ratings for Current’s new incarnation of Countdown With Keith Olbermann were bound to fall in the show’s second week as the curiosity factor wore off and people began their July 4 vacations. Still, the numbers from last week are bracing: Olbermann attracted an average of 93,000 viewers in its target 25-54 demo, down 29% from the first week. The total audience, at 253,000, was down 28.5%. The numbers account for people who watched the 8 PM ET broadcast live, or the same evening on their DVRs.
Current has little reason to be alarmed just yet. It’s attracting far more than the average of 15,000 viewers who tuned in to the time slot during the four weeks before Olbermann moved in. Last Wednesday’s broadcast handily beat Eliot Spitzer on CNN’s In The Arena. And Olbermann’s June 20 premiere broadcast did better than even Current initially thought: The network reported that the show attracted 179,000 viewers in its demo, but that just included live viewers. When same-day DVR watchers are thrown in, Olbermann drew 245,000 in the 25-54 demo, beating MSNBC with 237,000 and CNN with 89,000. Olbermann has said that he won’t focus on week-to-week ratings while Countdown finds its rhythm, and audience.
It’s always better to have unfiltered ratings information instead of selected portions released by the networks in question, but in the case of Current TV that is not possible since the data is private, so we have to rely on what the network released today on last night’s premiere of Countdown With Keith Olbermann. It is only demo information for cable news networks’ key demographic of adults 25-54, with no total viewer figures. In 25-54, Olbermann drew a solid 179,000 viewers, almost 10 times Current’s previous primetime average in total viewers. He was far behind the cable news ratings leader in the 8 PM hour, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (735,000 in 25-54), and couldn’t match his replacement at MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell (237,000), but he was very competitive in the hour and crushed CNN’s Elliot Spitzer (89,000).
If you used to watch Countdown With Keith Olbermann when it was on MSNBC, then you have a pretty good idea what it’s like on Current based on the first show tonight. The theme music from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the “Worst Persons In The World” segment, story, and guest selection, throwing his script at the camera, righteous indignation – all virtually identical. But there are two differences: Olbermann says his show will run 63 minutes a night, which means it will cut into the opening of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Also, Olbermann’s attacks on big business sound like he’s more interested in wooing viewers from public access television than from MSNBC. Tonight’s segments included filmmaker Michael Moore blasting the war in Libya, former Nixon lawyer John Dean attacking Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ alleged conflicts of interest, and Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas discussing the GOP presidential candidates and his run-ins with MSNBC. We’ll see how well it wears.
Will there be any substantive difference between Countdown With Keith Olbermann, which debuts Monday night on Current, and its most direct competitor, MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell? Don’t ask Olbermann. “I haven’t seen Lawrence’s show,” he told reporters on Friday. “I have not watched MSNBC for more than five minutes since I left it” in January. But viewers and especially MSNBC executives might be surprised to hear that Olbermann says he felt a “self-chilling effect” there to tone down his commentaries out of fear that he might “honk somebody off” at another NBCUniversal unit or in the news operation. Praising the “purity” of Current, he says that, ”even in writing the practice shows, I’ve stopped myself from stopping myself.”
Olbermann warned reporters in a conference call not to be swayed by ratings “bullshit” as rivals release data showing that few people will be watching his new show. ”We’re in this for the long haul,” he said, adding that there are no set audience targets. If just 10 technicians for the show can see it on Monday, “that would be a satisfactory audience.” Current reaches about 60 million cable and satellite homes, which puts it at a disadvantage to MSNBC, which goes to about 97 million and Fox News at about 102 million.
Olbermann said that actor Donald Sutherland will frequently appear on the show as a commentator. Other newly announced regulars are Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi; former Nixon White House counsel John Dean; activist group Demos’ Heather McGhee; law professor Jonathan Turley; comedian Maysoon Zayid; Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts; and reporters Kate Sheppard and Jeremy Scahill. Read More »
David Sarosi of Keith Olbermann’s old Countdown show on MSNBC has been named executive producer of Olbermann’s new Countdown on Current TV, which will premiere June 20. “Nobody knows what Countdown should be, more than Dave Sarosi,” said Olbermann, host of Countdown With Keith Olbermann and Chief News Officer at Current. For the past five years, Sarosi produced two key segments of the MSNBC show: the program “open,” which posed the question “Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?” and the often-controversial Worst Persons in the World. Joining Sarosi as senior producers are Leslie Bella-Henry, Bob Lilly and Aaron Volkman.
Keith Olbermann’s new show on Al Gore’s Current TV will have the same name as his old one on MSNBC — Countdown With Keith Olbermann. It will also air in Olbermann’s old 8 PM slot beginning June 20, 2011. Olbermann abruptly left MSNBC in January and joined Current in February as Chief News Officer and producer and anchor of a primetime show. “Countdown With Keith Olbermann will showcase the return to television of one of America’s most gifted thinkers and communicators,” said Joel Hyatt, co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman of Current. “Keith will be back, speaking truth to power and calling them as he sees them — but this time, on America’s only independent news and information TV network.”
MSNBC did pretty well with its State of the Union telecast, drawing 2.5 million viewers, up 4% from last year’s address, and the only cable news network to increase its audience year-to-year. It was also on par with last year’s ratings for the analysis immediately following President Barack Obama’s speech. But then things went downhill. From 11 PM-12 AM, MSNBC averaged 1.1 million viewers, down 24% from last year. The difference? Last year, the network had Keith Olbermann anchoring the hour. (To be exact, Countdown with Keith Olbermann aired from 10:45-11:45PM last January.) So 3 days after Olbermann’s abrupt exit on Friday night, MSNBC brass may be missing him already.
On his first show in the 8 PM time slot on MSNBC previously occupied by Keith Olbermann, Lawrence O’Donnell last night talked about what Olbermann’s tenure meant for the channel and for him personally. “I know that I now occupy a platform built for me by Keith Olbermann,” he said. “Had he not built this show and welcomed me to it, I would be at home tonight watching, I don’t know, the Real Housewives of somewhere.” Here is the video:
In his first public statement since his farewell address on the final episode of Countdown last Friday, former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann took to Twitter to thank his supporters and assure them he’ll be back. “My humble thanks to all Friends of Keith for the many kind words,” he just tweeted. “The reports of the death of my career are greatly exaggerated.” Olbermann, the host of MSNBC’s top-rated show Countdown, abruptly left the cable news channel on Friday night. Starting tonight, Countdown is being replaced by Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, which moved to 8 PM.
Here’s the statement that just came out from MSNBC President Phil Griffin. Well, that’s one way to goose the cable network’s seriously sagging ratings:
After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night’s program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy. We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night.
The lifting of Olbermann’s suspension follows the $7 million-a-year MSNBC anchor’s own first public statement on Twitter today about the ruckus over his making political contributions that violated network policy. Or was he put on ice because, as news reports are suggesting, he wouldn’t deliver an on-air apology? At least this mess is over now:
Another headache for new CNN topper Ken Jautz: the embattled news cable network’s latest primetime offering Parker Spitzer trailed the competition at 8 PM in its debut last night. That’s the one-hour show on CNN hosted by former New York Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer and political columnist Kathleen Parker. It drew 454,000 viewers, 118,000 of them in the 25-54 demographic, finishing No.4 behind HLN’s Nancy Grace (468,000 total viewers, 149,000 in adults 25-54), MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (1,225,000, 329,000 in 25-54) and time slot leader, Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor (3,112,000, 722,000 in 25-54). Parker Spitzer also dropped from its anemic 7 PM lead-in John King USA (742,000 total viewers, 101,000 in 25-54. Ironically, Parker Spitzer was down 8% in total viewers and 26% in the demo from the September averages for Rick Sanchez’s Rick’s List, which was filling in at 8 PM.