Olbermann's Gone Again: Lessons Learned For Other Cable TV Commentators?

No matter what you thought about him, Keith Olbermann gave an edge to all the places he worked: ESPN, MSNBC, or Current TV. But is that enough this days -- when seemingly every on-air sports and news commentator/host seemingly walks this tightrope?

These thoughts come to the surface as ESPN now says it is ending Olbermann’s current two-year run, which started in August 2013. Olbermann's initial term with ESPN ran from 1992 to 1997.

Did he piss people off this time? Oh, yeah -- but perhaps less so.  This time around Olbermann seemed to be more of a model TV citizen.

On air we loved to hear all his deep reporting and commentary on the likes of why that football team in Washington should probably look to change its nickname.

Before ESPN’s decision, the latest reports talked up the possibility of keeping Olbermann -- if only he would give up the commentary.



Give up the commentary? And do what, exactly -- just read the scores and offer up some description of sports highlights? Why would you pay him to do just that?

This time around Olbermann didn’t get much promotional push -- apart from his initial start for his “Olbermann” show. Ratings weren’t all that good for the show -- especially given its later night time periods and on the lower rated ESPN2. So there’s general cost-cutting to factor in.

Other ESPN on-air personnel have gotten into trouble, giving ESPN what no doubt TV producers want: sharp points of view -- which then unfortunately tipped over the line into inappropriate areas.

Slippage is part of the process. General news on-air commentators/hosts also continue to venture into this region -- seemingly pushed by other TV producers Why? To boost viewership, of course.

Earlier this year, Olbermann was suspended by ESPN for a week following tweets he made about Penn State students. He apologized.  Others got the same outcome as Olbermann: Sharp-tongue Bill Simmons’ contract wasn’t renewed by ESPN earlier this year.

Overall Olbermann offered up fresh points of view that kept you coming back -- whether it was for sports news and for general news/politics. He did great reporting -- and storytelling -- because you never knew where he, or his subjects, would end up.

1 comment about "Olbermann's Gone Again: Lessons Learned For Other Cable TV Commentators?".
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  1. ida tarbell from s-t broadcasting, July 10, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.

    Where will he turn up next?  Hosting a quiz show on the Game Show Channel, wearing red suspenders as a pretend talk show host aboard an infomercial?  We have to have him back in some form. Perhaps the small 5,000 watt radio station where Ted Baxter began his career?

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