That’s a hurdle for ESPN with Keith Olbermann, the longtime sportscaster and newscaster, most recently with Current after a long stint at MSNBC. Olbermann has had a very public history of being an on-air commentator who is brilliant but difficult to work with -- resulting in ESPN’s need to acknowledge this in an on-air promo for “Olbermann,” his new 11 p.m. weekday late night show on ESPN2, which started this week.
The promo shows Olbermann in an anchorman’s chair with a New York City backdrop. On-air graphics include the words: “Olbermann. Same attitude. More gray hair. Shorter attention span.”
The promo delivers in part for Olbermann aficionados, with a comic touch, and some deprecating remarks. One bit shows a younger 1980s or 1970s Olbermann complete with on-air commentator moustache. Olbermann comments, “Yes I paid for that haircut.”
Olbermann has a long, complex history at CNN, Fox, ESPN and MSNBC -- with some highlighted resumé points: being hired; having troubles with senior executives; being fired. So much has been made of Olbermann “burning bridges” with execs at every stop he has made that one wonders if ESPN promos should have referenced that in some way.
Olbermann’s history will draw old fans and curious new viewers, all possibly watching for key moments or diatribes that will -- what else? -- get him in trouble again. (His first night on the air included political and popular culture news, as well as sports).
TV news viewers are now so accustomed to certain behavior and drama -- in part coming from the swill of wall-to-wall reality TV – that there is big expectation and encouragement.
ESPN’s on-air creative for its “This is SportsCenter” promotion has long received strong critical reviews for its droll messaging. We are unsure if promos for “Olbermann” will be of the same quality; then again, they don’t seem to need it.