Tonight comes the moment that all of America has been waiting for—well, at least the hard core leftists—as Keith Olbermann launches his new show on Current TV.
Olbermann, who was fired from MSNBC in January, has been working for months on a new version of his old Countdown program that he hopes will pull viewers away from his former employer.
In an effort to mimic his old program he has been trying to woo commentators and staff from MSNBC, which has recently caused the network to pony up more money when renewing the contracts of guest commentators Eugene Robinson, Ezra Klein and Christopher Hayes.
According to The New York Times, MSNBC president Phil Griffin denied that the signings had anything to do with competition from Current TV. But the timing, and reports that they probably paid more money than they had originally intended, shows that Olbermann may have already had some of the desired effect on the network.
Olbermann has a very real challenge in taking on MSNBC and trying to lure their liberal audience to his new home. Current TV average primetime viewership is about 20,000 to 30,000 despite being available in over 60 million homes, compared to the average one million or so viewers that MSNBC’s prime time lineup normally attracts.
But to be safe, according to Brian Stelter of The New York Times, Olbermann did tell reporters in a conference call that he expects the number to be low. In this way if the ratings do turn out to be low he can say he isn’t disappointed, and if they somehow turn out to be on the high side he can then boast that the show has exceeded expectations.
One area where he may not exceed expectations concerns his regular contributors.
Ken Burns, the award winning filmmaker, appeared in an announcement that he would be one of Olbermann’s regular contributors along with Michael Moore and others. But when contacted by the Baltimore Sun he told them he was surprised to hear that. He said he has been friends with Olbermann for a long time and that he said, “Oh, I’ll come and do it.” Burns added that since he lives in New Hampshire, “I don’t know how I become a contributor.”
That was just an honest oversight, I’m sure. Yeah, right.
MSNBC isn’t exactly quaking in its boots about tonight’s debut. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Griffin and some of Olbermann’s former colleagues tune in to see if Keith is likely to become a threat at some point, or if he has just taken a pile of Al Gore’s global warming-hype-generated wealth and will be broadcasting in cable news purgatory.