Keith Olbermann will premiere new show on Al Gore's Current TV this spring [Updated]
Keith Olbermann, the controversial broadcaster who abruptly exited MSNBC last month, announced Tuesday morning that he this spring will join Current TV, the little-watched but rapidly growing cable outlet founded by former vice president Al Gore and legal entrepreneur Joel Hyatt.
Olbermann, who will have an as-yet untitled nightly program on Current and also become chief news officer and take an equity stake in the network, said in a teleconference that he was looking forward to a platform offering “news produced independently of corporate interference.”
Current, which is available in about 60 million U.S. cable and satellite homes and has 15 million more subscribers internationally, is a private company and does not report financial results. But the 6-year-old network is supported by advertising and is seeking broader support among cable carriers as well as a larger audience. Perhaps not coincidentally, the network will offer its "upfront" preview of programming to advertisers on Wednesday, with Olbermann's hiring expected to be central. "Advertisers have certainly looked at Keith as advertiser-friendly," Gore told reporters.
Olbermann and his new bosses offered few details about the host's new program, although the broadcaster hinted that it would be similar to "Countdown," the nightly opinion show that showcased liberal opinion and newsmakers. "Countdown" was MSNBC's top-rated offering, but the host frequently clashed with management at NBC Universal before he left abruptly last month. During the height of the election season last year, Olbermann was briefly suspended for making donations to Democratic candidates in violation of NBC policy.
Olbermann said Tuesday that he did not "want to stay stationary in that sort of mainstream news environment."
With Olbermann's hiring, Current would seem to be lurching into the cable news race where MSNBC and CNN have long run behind Fox News Channel. Hyatt insisted the network would not consider itself a player in cable news, even with its new talent on board, but deferred details until the network's upfront presentation.
That Gore -- a lion of the Democratic party who won the Nobel Prize for his environmental work -- has hired the leading liberal broadcaster would seem to establish Current as a base for left-leaning opinion. Gore said he considered himself a "recovering politician" but that he found himself in "substantial agreement" with Olbermann's views.
Olbermann has said little about his falling-out with MSNBC since he left the network. On Tuesday he promised he would have more to say about that in the future, but that "this isn't the time to do it." An MSNBC spokesman said the network would have no comment on Olbermann's new deal.
As for Current, its leaders are confident that the Olbermann hiring will finally mark its entry into the big leagues of cable TV.
As Gore told reporters: "We have more subscribers today than MSNBC had when Keith Olbermann began working for them" in 2003.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Keith Olbermann, who left MSNBC abruptly, is joining Current TV. Credit: MSNBC.
[For the Record, 9:49 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Olbermann would be news director at Current TV.]