It's been 16 long years since Keith Olbermann left ESPN's SportsCenter to make his name as a political commentator at MSNBC and, most recently, Current TV. But as Variety first reported this evening, Olbermann will be returning to the network he helped put on the map as an anchor alongside Dan Patrick on SportsCenter.
Variety says ESPN is likely making the official announcement tomorrow. Olbermann will host his own hourlong show on ESPN2, which will air later this year. The move has been 14 months in the making; as recently as March, it seemed like the 54-year-old anchor was trying, but failing, to get back into ESPN after his long, tumultuous relationship with ESPN. (He had a brief stint alongside Patrick on ESPN radio's "The Big Show with Dan and Keith" until Patrick left in 2007.) The New York Times, which also reported on the story, has more:
Within ESPN, there was concern about asking Olbermann back because he left the network under emotionally charged circumstances and because it was feared by some that Olbermann had become too politicized as the host of his interim MSNBC program “Countdown,” which aired from 2003 through January 2011.
On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies.
While some ESPN insiders reportedly voiced the opinion that Olbermann was part of the network’s past, not its future, his star quality is almost unmatched in the sports television arena; he seems to draw a crowd. Rumors had been bubbling for weeks that ESPN would put aside the difficulties of the past and invite Olbermann back.
So Olbermann will be back on ESPN. But of course, there's a catch. His new show won't be shot in ESPN's main campus in Bristol, Connecticut. Instead, ESPN's keeping him in New York. He'll air from the ABC News studio in Times Square.
Photo: Associated Press