Will there be any substantive difference between Countdown With Keith Olbermann, which debuts Monday night on Current, and its most direct competitor, MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell? Don’t ask Olbermann. “I haven’t seen Lawrence’s show,” he told reporters on Friday. “I have not watched MSNBC for more than five minutes since I left it” in January. But viewers and especially MSNBC executives might be surprised to hear that Olbermann says he felt a “self-chilling effect” there to tone down his commentaries out of fear that he might “honk somebody off” at another NBCUniversal unit or in the news operation. Praising the “purity” of Current, he says that, “even in writing the practice shows, I’ve stopped myself from stopping myself.”
Olbermann warned reporters in a conference call not to be swayed by ratings “bullshit” as rivals release data showing that few people will be watching his new show. “We’re in this for the long haul,” he said, adding that there are no set audience targets. If just 10 technicians for the show can see it on Monday, “that would be a satisfactory audience.” Current reaches about 60 million cable and satellite homes, which puts it at a disadvantage to MSNBC, which goes to about 97 million and Fox News at about 102 million.
Olbermann said that actor Donald Sutherland will frequently appear on the show as a commentator. Other newly announced regulars are Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi; former Nixon White House counsel John Dean; activist group Demos’ Heather McGhee; law professor Jonathan Turley; comedian Maysoon Zayid; Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts; and reporters Kate Sheppard and Jeremy Scahill.
Olbermann, who’s also Current’s Chief News Officer, declined to discuss his salary and says that budgets for his show “haven’t been decided yet.” But viewers can expect him to continue his attacks on Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly even though Olbermann says his nemesis has “lost a little on his fast ball.”