After Keith Olbermann suddenly announced his departure last night, some speculated that the impending NBC-Comcast merger played a role. NBC executives quickly denied any Comcast involvement in the decision. But how did it all really go down? Details are trickling in, and early anonymous sources say Olbermann was not flat-out fired. However, most outlets are also reporting that Olbermann and network brass have long been butting heads.
According to TMZ, the exit was partially about money: “Olbermann’s agent went to NBC complaining that Keith was underpaid,” the site reports. “NBC execs told Olbermann’s agent they would not cough up more money. Network execs were well aware that Comcast wanted Keith gone because he was ‘a loose cannon that could not be controlled.’ It became clear to both sides that Olbermann’s days were numbered and they began negotiating an exit, completed just before airtime Friday night.” Under the deal, Olbermann is allegedly barred from appearing on television for a certain period of time, but he will reappear soon with “a presence on the Internet,” where all fugitives of the television end up.
Deadline reports a similar story: “This was all Keith’s choice. He has said several times over the years said that he wants out of his contract.” The site says he began negotiating his out a few months ago, but, “because of all the false threats in the past, it was impossible for the network to know if he was really going to sign the final document.” Even his own staff learned he was quitting when they heard him say it on TV.
And the New York Times concurs that NBC and Olbermann have been in negotiations to end Olbermann’s run for weeks. The Times notes: “Mr. Olbermann had butted heads with his superiors long before the Comcast deal, including Phil Griffin, the top MSNBC executive … and NBC’s management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann before.” One executive said Comcast “dreaded the prospect” of being blamed if Olbermann were to quit soon after the takeover.
Only the New York Post reported that Olberamnn was “unceremoniously dumped,” but the paper also repeatedly refers to him as “a garrulous gasbag.” So.