How Al Gore Offered Keith Olbermann a Job
Less than 24 hours after Keith Olbermann anchored his last edition of Countdown on Jan. 21, Al Gore placed a call to his friend inviting him to join Current TV.
“We've been friends for a while,” Gore told The Hollywood Reporter during a press breakfast in New York on Wednesday.
A contract was quickly hammered out. But it was Gore who convinced Olbermann to join the network, say sources. The former vice president and co-founder of Current was a fan of Countdown where he had also been a guest in the past. RELATED: Tim Goodman's analysis of the move.
Olbermann's Current show will likely premiere in late May, when the non-compete clause in his exit agreement with NBC Universal will have reached its conclusion.
Sources tell THR that that agreement also stipulates that Olbermann cannot work for any network considered a competitor.
"He had no choice but to go to a place like Current because his non-compete excluded just about every other place," said an MSNBC insider.
Current averaged 18,000 homes in primetime for fourth quarter 2010, lower than any other network measured by Nielsen.
"Contract terms never stipulated Current TV as one of the targeted outlets," the source added.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Olbermann described the show as "an improved, amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did at my previous network."
Olbermann and everyone else associated with Current have mostly studiously avoided uttering the letters MSNBC in talking about the new deal. But Olbermann said yesterday that he would address his time there at some point in the future. MSNBC had no comment.
For Current's part, the network is working with Olbermann to bring in a production team for Olbermann's show, including an executive producer. And, as Current's new chief news officer, Olbermann will also have a hand in developing the shows that surround his on Current.
“Among his many talents, he has an eye for what works, what doesn't ,who would be good on his show and potentially doing other shows,” said Gore. “And we're going to let that evolve. He's always done that. He was more responsible than anyone else by far in making the brand of the network he most recently worked at. Before than he was more responsible than anyone else for Sports Center, the heart of heart of ESPN. So he knows how to do this.”
With Olbermann bringing the network some attention and a much-needed tent-pole show in primetime, Current Media CEO Mark Rosenthal sees an opportunity in what he described as the white space between “scripted reality” found on networks including History and Bravo and the hard news networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox New Channel.
“Our research tells us there is a demand for real reality programming, not scripted reality programming,” he said.
The network teased its current programming such as Ira Glass' This American Life and its Vanguard documentary series, as well as new programs including a six-part documentary series about Missoula Smokejumpers and 4th and Forever, about the football program at Long Beach Poly High School which has sent more players to the NFL than any other school in history, which bows April 3.