Keith Olbermann dreaded that he’d be remembered as the guy who rose to stardom at ESPN then left less than amicably.
“I don’t want that to be in the obituary, flatly,” he said on a conference call yesterday.
So now he’s returning to the company as a late-night host, insisting that, this time, a gig won’t end badly.
Olbermann expressed gratitude for “this chance to put a different ending on the story of my relationship with ESPN.”
“We are indelibly intertwined,” he said. “I know that we can’t go back and undo everything that happened 20 years ago in those environs. But I would like to do my best to correct as much of it as I can. I appreciate the fresh start. We’ll see how much success I can get in that way, and how much success I can get in the way of the show.
“But I’m going to do my damnedest for both.”
“Olbermann,” which premieres Aug. 26, will generally air at 11 p.m. ET Monday-Friday on ESPN2, depending on live event coverage on the channel. Executives hope the show can exploit the ratings boost from the frequent live event lead-ins.
Olbermann’s new ESPN offering will often air opposite his old one, “SportsCenter” on the main ESPN network. The company has found over the years that broadcasting concurrent programming on its various channels expands its overall audience.
And starting next month, ESPN will face competition in the 11 p.m. slot from new cable channel Fox Sports 1’s nightly highlights and analysis show.
“We’re happy to compete,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “Clearly the timing of some of what we’re doing is intended to put us in a competitive position.”
“Olbermann,” based in New York City, will weave together commentary, interviews, highlights, panel discussions. The host hinted that some segments may be “evocative” of those from previous gigs.