Deadline is shedding some new light on the details behind Keith Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC. According to their report, Olbermann wanted out, and it was his choice to leave. An MSNBC insider claims the Comcast had no impact on the deal, and that this was all between Keith Olbermann and Phil Griffin.
An MSNBC insider told Deadline, “This was all Keith’s choice. He has several times over the years said that he wants out of his contract. He never meant it until this year. He started lawyers negotiating twice this year. He stopped them in the spring. Then, about a month ago with the guidance of his new ICM team and a new LA manager (who were making zero $ on his current deal), he once again said he wanted to leave and this time they negotiated the full package.”
Olbermann has changed his mind about leaving MSNBC a few times, so the network didn’t know that he was going to sign the final papers and leave until he said it on the air. This is why Countdown promos were still running on MSNBC, and this is why there was no pre-announcement of this being Olbermann’s final show.
According to the Deadline update this was all about Keith Olbermann and Phil Griffin. Comcast had nothing to do with the decision. “Comcast has had no impact at all on MSNBC [yet]. Phil Griffin has complete authority. He makes deals without having to consult with anyone…MSNBC is Phil Griffin’s network and no one at NBC thinks they have a better idea than Phil about what to do next.” If anyone helped to push Olbermann out the door, it was Phil Griffin, not Comcast.
From a business point of view, the Comcast/Olbermann conspiracy theory makes zero sense. Comcast is not going to take MSNBC right, because Fox News owns the market for conservative news viewers. The best that Comcast could hope for if they moved MSNBC to the right would be to be exactly where they are right now, number two in cable news. MSNBC makes a nice little profit, so instead of moving to the right Comcast will likely push MSNBC to follow Fox’s lead and try to corner the market on left leaning viewers. What Comcast is almost certainly going to do is clean up the behind the scenes soap opera and circus atmosphere at MSNBC. This means that there will be no more power plays and feuds between on air talent. (If Comcast really does try to clean things up, Chris Matthews will be gone).
It looks like Olbermann wanted out because of his feud with his boss, Phil Griffin. If anyone is to blame for Olbermann’s departure, it’s Phil Griffin. If Keith really wanted to leave, then I am happy for him. I know the rumor is that he is going back to sports, but I believe that he is going to stay in news/politics. There is nothing left for Olbermann to accomplish in sports. He got a taste of doing something more substantial, so I don’t think that he would be happy with being back in sports full time. He may continue to dabble, but his heart appears to be in politics now.
It is interesting that some are so willing to point the finger at Comcast, when all the evidence suggests that this was the work of Phil Griffin. As soon as Comcast announced that Griffin would be keeping his job, Olbermann’s days were numbered. Once Griffin had the support of the new owners, Olbermann had no allies upstairs. The writing was on the wall, and it looks like Keith Olbermann got out. If this move ends up hurting the network there will be no one to blame but Phil Griffin and his feud with Keith Olbermann.