Olbermann makes cut for NBC's 'Football Night'

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NEW YORK -- Keith Olbermann is rapidly becoming one of the busiest men on TV.

The "Countdown" anchor, recently signed to a multiyear deal to stay with MSNBC, will add another job to his resume in the fall as co-host of NBC's "Football Night in America." NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said Monday that Olbermann will join co-host Bob Costas and analysts Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis and Cris Collinsworth in the second year of the "Football Night in America" that precedes the network's "Sunday Night Football" telecasts.

Olbermann has anchored "Countdown," a big hit for MSNBC, since April 2003. Under the terms of his new agreement, he'll continue that weekday show as well as contribute essays to "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams." He's also co-host for an hour with former ESPN comrade Dan Patrick for ESPN Radio's "The Dan Patrick Show."

Ebersol said Monday that Olbermann was in the midst of negotiations when NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker asked Ebersol if he would like Olbermann to become a part of NBC Sports again. (Olbermann had anchored baseball and some pre-Super Bowl coverage in 1997.)

"I said, 'Yeah,' at the drop of the hat," Ebersol said. Zucker floated the idea to Olbermann, who was amenable.

"Jeff mentioned it, and I said, 'That's great,' and we literally had it as a 'That's great, let's see what we can come up with' " until a few weeks ago when Ebersol and Olbermann talked. Olbermann had lunch with Ebersol, Costas and Collinsworth last week and hammered out the details.

Olbermann has recently gotten kudos for his work on the news side with MSNBC's "Countdown." But he first rose to national prominence in the early 1990s co-hosting "SportsCenter" with Patrick in a style that has been often imitated and even inspired Aaron Sorkin's comedy "SportsNight." He said Monday that he doesn't think that his sometimes controversial opinions on "Countdown" will affect or have much relevance on "Football Night."

Ebersol said Olbermann will, among other things, do the highlights on the show that has been positioned by NBC Sports as a wrap-up of Sunday's all-day football and a table setter ahead of the Sunday night game.

"I'm sure there will be occasionally phone calls from the (National Football) League on Monday morning," Ebersol said of the opinionated cast that he said is essential more than highlights for a successful studio show.

"They'll keep coming back if you really let your personalities shine," Ebersol said of viewers.

This was, in many respects, the only way to involve Olbermann in the football telecasts. Because of the demands of "Countdown" -- now produced in Secaucus, N.J., but soon to be produced at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters after the MSNBC move across the Hudson River -- Olbermann couldn't travel with the game every week.

Olbermann said the new gig won't affect either "Countdown" or "Dan Patrick," though he said he might take a Friday off during football season to get a two-day weekend.

Ebersol said that despite the full-house nature of "Football Night" he doesn't want to change the kickoff time of the Sunday night game from its current 8:20 p.m.-8:23 p.m. ET time frame.

"I feel honor bound to the viewer to make sure these games kick off before 8:30 p.m. ... I fully expect they'll continue there," Ebersol said.
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