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Current TV’s most popular show right now might be their new reality program: Anchor vs. Network.
The ratings-troubled cable outfit dropped a news bomb Friday afternoon when it announced the firing of Keith Olbermann, the fiery former CNN and MSNBC broadcaster whom they had brought in for an eye-catching $50 million dollars a little more than a year earlier. It has since come out that Olbermann and the network’s heads, Joel Hyatt and Al Gore, had been feuding for months, with Olbermann upset about poor production value on his set and demanding frequent, sometimes inconveniently timed days off, and the network contending that he had been impossible to work with and was trying to sabotage their operation.
Today, the New York Post reports that by the end of Olbermann’s time with Current, he was no longer on speaking terms with the network’s executives, as he felt he should not be bossed by anyone; he left the acrimonious negotiations to his manager. The network begged that Olbermann not take the day before Super Tuesday off, but he refused to give in, reappearing the next night for the big election coverage.
As The Hollywood Reporter first reported on Friday, Current will not pay Olbermann his large remaining salary, citing sabotage and public criticism of executives. In its letter to viewers announcing the firing, the network wrote that its relationship with the host no longer reflected their values of “values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers.”
Olbermann, in a fiery letter on Friday, slammed Current’s handling of his situation.
“For more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.”
Over the weekend and into Monday, the now unattached newsman poked fun at Current via his Twitter feed. Much of it came through commenting on and retweeting notes from supportive fans.
“You guys had to PAY? I’m very sorry! RT @skiffy_grrl Mixed feelings: sorry to see KO gone, happy to drop CURRENT and lower my cable bill”
“Had to restore their ethics they said 🙂 RT @KeighanC weird how they see fit to replace a pro journalist w/a guy who got busted w/a Hooker”
“I did. You see where it got me. RT @almcquilkin Love the show, but could you ask Current to buy some lights and an HD camera?”
Meanwhile, in an email sent to Current employees and obtained by THR, Hyatt tried to inject enthusiasm for the network’s hosts, while taking another shot at Olbermann.
“Talent that will do best in this environment is talent who themselves have shown that they are scrappy, entrepreneurial fighters with the initiative and courage to take on powerful interests on behalf of those in society who all too often do not have a voice,” he wrote. “Cenk [Uygur] and Jennifer [Granholm] and Stephanie [Miller] and Bill [Press] are just such talents. They are more at home at Current than at large media conglomerates.”
Olbermann will appear on The Late Show with David Letterman on Tuesday night to further explain his side of the story. Olbermann’s replacement, Eliot Spitzer, debuted his new show, Viewpoint, to just 47,000 viewers on Friday night, an anemic low that fuels Olbermann’s criticism of the network as unprofessional.
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