July 20, 2015 by David K. Sutton
MSNBC And Keith Olbermann Kiss And Makeup?
Are the rumors true? Is Keith Olbermann heading back to MSNBC?
It’s no secret that MSNBC has experienced a multi-year ratings malaise. And it’s no mistake that the last time MSNBC actually competed with Fox News was during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons with a certain person named Keith Olbermann chairing the 8pm timeslot.
Oh sure, the 2012 election saw a bump in ratings, but the real beginning of MSNBC’s ratings distress was about the time Olbermann quit, or was fired (depending on who you want to believe) in January 2011. Since then, Olbermann, known for his abrasive relationships with management, has gone on to Al Gore’s Current TV, only to be fired, and then on to a second stint at ESPN, only to be fired (well, technically he wasn’t fired, they just didn’t renew his contract).
Regardless of your opinion of Olbermann’s politics or Olbermann’s employment antics, you have to admit he is good at what he does. Olbermann has an engaging on-screen presence, with a fiery rhetorical style that MSNBC sorely needs in the coveted 8pm primetime hour.
So, what happens to Chris Hayes? Well, it’s also no secret that All In with Chris Hayes has underperformed, and that’s about the best way I can spin it. “All In” is intelligent and thoughtful, and MSNBC would do well to find another venue for Hayes, but let’s face it, their 2-year experiment with all-wonk-primetime has not gone well. Not only is Hayes suffering in the ratings department, his weak lead-in has dragged down Rachel Maddow’s ratings as well.
The one sticky wicket that could derail a MSNBC-Olbermann reunion is MSNBC’s apparent (although not-yet-realized) desire to shift toward hard news and away from left-leaning commentary. But if MSNBC wishes to reverse the ratings slide, it might want to revisit the formula that allowed it to surpass CNN primetime viewership. Back in the mid-aughts, Olbermann was a force of nature in exposing the lies and nonsense of the Bush administration in the aftermath of the quagmire known as the second Iraq war. Countdown with Keith Olbermann premiered in 2003, and it wasn’t long before MSNBC had a “viral” host before “viral” was a thing. This was also a time when MSNBC could expect to see 1 million viewers at 8pm, and then also at 9pm when “The Rachel Maddow Show” took off in 2008-09.
Will MSNBC bury the hatchet? Will Olbermann agree to a third stint at MSNBC (he briefly worked there in the 90s as well)? And if the two parties do agree on a reconciliation, will we get another 8 years, or will Olbermann self-destruct again after a few months, or maybe a few years? But, if we can get Keith Olbermann back at 8pm on MSNBC during the 2016 election coverage, do we care if it comes with an expiration date?