6:59pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Olbermann Attorney: 'Keith's Lawyers and Current's Lawyers Are Communicating'
The lead attorney for Keith Olbermann tells The Hollywood Reporter that the disgruntled Current newsman is negotiating his next moves with his employer in the wake of a falling out over his participation in coverage of the Republican primaries.
Patricia Glaser, the Hollywood litigator who represented Olbermann during his exit from MSNBC and his subsequent hiring by Current, tells THR that conversations between the Olbermann camp and Current have begun over his role with the network.
“Keith’s lawyers and Current’s lawyers are communicating,” Glaser says.
What that means for the future of the cantankerous newsman remains unclear. Tension between Olbermann and Current management, first reported by the New York Times on Dec. 29, boiled over this week as Olbermann sat out coverage of the GOP primary in Iowa in the wake of technical difficulties on his New York-based show Countdown.
“I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions,” Olbermann said in a statement to THR on Wednesday. “They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong.”
But an internal memo from Current TV president David Bohrman obtained by THR contends that Olbermann was asked to lead primary coverage. Regardless, Cenk Uygur, Jennifer Granholm and network co-founder Al Gore have been helming the network's election specials. And Tuesday, Olbermann's Countdown was pre-empted for live coverage of the Iowa caucuses.
Olbermann is said to believe that he controls the 8 p.m. time slot in which his program airs, but Current is said to want influence over how the network covers special events like the primaries. Olbermann also has expressed his displeasure with the level of influence he has been given over the hiring of other Current hosts. Glaser declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations.
Glaser is one of Hollywood's fiercest litigators and is extremely familiar with TV disputes. She represented Conan O'Brien during his protracted negotiation to exit NBC after the network first attempted to bump O'Brien to a later slot and then awarded The Tonight Show to its former host, Jay Leno. Glaser also handled Olbermann's contentious split from MSNBC.
On Monday, Olbermann sent THR an e-mail defending the editorial integrity of Countdown while sardonically referencing the technical glitches that have plagued his show. “The team I'm fortunate enough to be a part of has produced — in my opinion and that of the veterans of the old show — the best editions of Countdown we've ever had,” Olbermann wrote. “The studio lights might go off, but the editorial illumination is better than ever.”
Countdown is the highest-rated show on Current by far. On Dec. 15, the program averaged 52,000 viewers among news’ target demographic of viewers ages 25 to 54. The network’s two-hour post-Iowa GOP debate analysis on the same night had 4,000 viewers in the demo, while the 2 a.m. rebroadcast of Countdown pulled in 11,000.