Keith Olbermann Returning To His (Sports) Television Roots

Ever since losing his show on Current TV, which followed rather quickly on the heels of his losing his show on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann has been a man without a media outlet. Starting in October, though, he’ll be back on the air doing what he became well-known for prior to becoming a combative political commentator:

Keith Olbermann — the sports anchor, not the political news one — is returning to television.

Turner Sports announced on Wednesday that it had reached a deal with Mr. Olbermann to host its studio coverage of postseason Major League Baseball in the fall.

That means Mr. Olbermann will be on the air for the Turner channel TBS for much of October. TBS has the rights to the two wild-card playoff games in each league, and all four of the division series, as well as the National League Championship Series. (The World Series will again be broadcast on the Fox network.)

The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

David Levy, the president of sports distribution for Turner, did not disclose terms of the deal, or its length, but said the network’s goal was to have the studio show with Mr. Olbermann “last a long time.” In the studio role for Turner, Mr. Olbermann will be teamed with the Hall of Fame relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley, though Mr. Levy said the network expected to add to its studio team.

Mr. Olbermann has a long background in sports, including a recent stint on NBC as a host of its studio introduction to “Sunday Night Football.” It was his work as an anchor on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” in the 1990s that introduced him to many television viewers.

But he became best known for his tenure as the host of the MSNBC program “Countdown,” which at one point was the highest-rated cable news show not on the Fox News Channel. His eight-year run at that network ended in acrimony, as have many of Mr. Olbermann’s previous assignments on television.

Most recently, he was the main anchor for the Current TV network, which fired him only a year after he had joined. Both sides sued, and in March they came to a settlement whose terms were not disclosed.

In the telephone news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Olbermann made several joking references to his mercurial career in television, noting that this deal really only amounts to one month of work on Turner. “If you go through the 37 pages of my résumé, you will notice that every one of my jobs has lasted at least one month, so I’m covered no matter what the eventuality is.”

That one month of work means that Mr. Olbermann has 11 months free and he said that he would be “open to pursuing other things, of course.” But he added: “Planning on it? No. Need to? Fortunately not. Whatever else might be out there just could not be as compelling as this.”

He recalled that his first television job was with the Turner company 30 years ago as a sports anchor for newscasts on TBS, when it was a local station in Atlanta. During his first newscast, he said, a mistake with the teleprompter made his entire script flash by in eight seconds, “which I think was a precursor to my entire career.”

To be honest, this may be best for Olbermann. He was pretty good when he was on ESPN and even his stint on Sunday Night Football was pretty good, although at that point it was hard to separate Olbermann the sportscaster from Olbermann the often objectionable, pugnacious, political commentator. If he sticks strictly to sports, he may actually get the comeback right this time.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes, Sports,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Sam Malone says:

    Just. Go. Away.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    He’s a talented guy. I don’t watch sports, but Olbermann is a genuinely interesting broadcaster.

  3. This is probably a good move on both parts. I didn’t think Olbermann’s time on Sunday Night Football was all that good, but he’s a lot more passionate about baseball than football.

  4. Pinky says:

    I know that you can’t believe rumors, but he just doesn’t seem likable on camera. Costas has his politics, too, and I could imagine him getting tiring in person, but he’s likable.

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    Bob Costas is a formidable journalist in his own right. He could do any kind of anchoring or reporting, if he wanted to do it.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    You know, I liked Keith on MSNBC. And he got their evening revamp off to a good start. He was the Liberal mirror of FOX. Partisan, ideological, over the top. Of course, he didn’t lie anywhere near as much.

    Reminded me of a comment I heard after Rushbos failed attempt at sportscasting. Guy said he wasn’t surprised Rush failed. In his usual gig he can just say what he wants. In sports, you have to actually have a good grasp of reality. Every Sunday they actually play the game and find out if you were BSing.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    I used love him on ESPN.

    I don’t watch sports

    Was up with that Harry? You a commie?