NBC calling up 'Countdown' for Sunday start

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NEW YORK -- Ever the baseball fan, Keith Olbermann likens "Countdown's" Sunday night appearance on NBC to the Triple-A pitcher given a spot start in the major leagues with the knowledge he'll go right back to the minors afterward.

Olbermann, whose MSNBC show has made him a cult hero to some, said Wednesday that it's nothing more than a scheduling need on the big network that will bring "Countdown" to NBC at 7 p.m. EDT Sunday before "Sunday Night Football."

"I go into it with an assumption that this is a one-shot deal," Olbermann said. He said that if for some reason the show is successful in that slot, with little to no publicity or advertising, then that assumption might change, though he isn't thinking it's going to happen.

"Countdown" likely will get a wider exposure on NBC than it has on MSNBC, where it has run weeknights since it debuted in 2003. While the content of the show will be driven by the day's events and therefore not known until Sunday, Olbermann said there's nothing special planned other than to do the same type of show they always do.

"There's not any effort to force stuff to happen ... to tailor the news to fit what I want to say nor pull any punches," Olbermann said. The last segment, he said, would include "Football Night in America" co-hosts Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth.

Even if "Countdown" doesn't get another start on the broadcast network, it won't be the end of Olbermann's involvement with NBC. He will have a key role with Costas and Collinsworth, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis on this season's "SNF" pregame show. Sunday's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers doesn't have too much of a pregame, but Olbermann will deliver a commentary during halftime. The topic? Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who this week said he will plead guilty to dogfighting and gambling charges.

Olbermann offered this commentary teaser: "Essentially, if you dislike or hate Michael Vick or what he's done, your hope should be that the National Football League punishment is minimal. It's kind of a counterintuitive position."

Olbermann will be part of several segments on the regular-season pregame show, including doing with Costas what he said was a highlights rundown like those he used to do on ESPN's "SportsCenter" in the 1990s. He'll also have a "Countdown"-like segment at show's end and, borrowing another feature from his MSNBC program, he'll nominate a "Worst Person in the NFL."

But don't look for him in Beijing next year for the Summer Olympics, which will be broadcast on TV, broadband and mobile by his employers. Olbermann said that it would be a month or so of a commitment that would interfere with "Countdown," something that's not likely to happen.
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