A year to the day after his late-night ESPN2 show premiered comes news that Keith Olbermann is shifting to 5 PM ET. An ESPN exec said the move means he can host “key editions of SportsCenter surrounding major news or events throughout the year, while enabling us to secure a more consistent time slot to showcase his distinctive voice.” The much-traveled host said on-air tonight that the Worldwide Leader is shifting the hourlong Olbermann from 11 PM ET to 5 PM (2 PM PT) and trimming it by 30 minutes. (Read his tweets below.) The revamped show will launch September 8 — at the exact time CBS is set to air the U.S. Open Men’s Final. But it also debuts smack in the middle of the first game of ESPN’s annual opening-week Monday Night Football doubleheader. Maybe the network is hoping for some tune-in during halftime of that New York Giants-Detroit Lions game. It certainly can promote the show to what will be a huge audience.
The timing of the announcement of his one-year anniversary can’t be a coincidence; it seems Olbermann passed some kind of test. The new time slot allows him to anchor key nighttime SportsCenters but keeps him locked into a daily show format. It’s as if ESPN brass are making the lightning-rod veteran of sports and political shows do the Stations of the Cross before bringing him back with any regularity to the mothership — SportsCenter, which he co-anchored from 1992-97 before an ugly split with the network.
“Keith has had a fantastic return to ESPN, and we’re proud of the quality content featured in the first year of Olbermann, immediately garnering the program its first Emmy nomination,” said Norby Williamson, EVP Program Scheduling & Development at the sports behemoth. “We feel that strategically shifting the time of this show will not only provide access to a broader audience, but gives us greater flexibility for Keith to do cross-platform opportunities.” Snarked MSNBC and Current TV alum Olbermann, who will continue to host his show live from ABC’s Times Square studios, “As I like to say on the air, I’ve done all the damage I can do here in late night.”