Rift Between Current TV and Olbermann Heats Up; Exec: 'Everybody Is Replaceable'

Keith Olbermann is making waves. Again.

The former MSNBC host has pulled out the big guns, bringing in Hollywood (and gaming) superlawyer Patricia Glaser “to ‘determine his rights’ in his five-year contract,” after his public spat with Current TV bosses, a source tells The Wrap.

Meanwhile, executives at Current TV said that relations – especially those with Current CEO Joel Hyatt – were at a breaking point after deteriorating over the past several months.

“I hope Keith is part of our future, but it’s up to Keith,” an executive with Current who declined to be identified told TheWrap. “Keith set us in the right direction and we’re on that path now … and as I’ve learned over the years, everybody is replaceable.”

Olbermann was conspicuously absent from special election coverage of the Iowa Caucuses at Current TV, where the notably cantankerous host has held the title of Chief News Officer since his abrupt departure from MSNBC last summer. After his “Countdown” program, which was migrated from MSNBC to Current TV, was pre-empted Tuesday night by the GOP primary coverage, sans Olbermann, details of a breaking point began unfolding to the public.

It initially appeared that the programming change came as a surprise to Olbermann. On Tuesday, he tweeted what implied the return of Countdown following its holiday hiatus, only to later tweet a correction, directing his 360,000+ followers to defer questions to his bosses.

Not surprisingly, his bosses weren’t so happy with that. And apparently, there was more to the back story. Current TV president David Bohrman explained in an internal memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

To the Countdown Staff….

I wanted to clarify tonight’s programming, as I gather there may be some misunderstanding about what is on when.

As we assumed Keith had communicated to you, Keith was asked to be the sole anchor and executive producer of our primary and caucus coverage. He declined.

We then made other plans to have our 4 hours of prime time election coverage tonight hosted by Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, and The Young Turks. We tried several times to have Keith participate in our coverage, including being the lead anchor for the 8p hour tonight, incorporated with our election group in the Los Angeles studio and produced in the LA control room. We have a special election graphic package, live remotes, caucus feeds, etc.

There will be NO stand-alone Countdown tonight. For those of you at work who might be preparing a program, I apologize your managers did not communicate this to you. See you back on the air tomorrow night.



Olbermann spoke out, telling The Hollywood Reporter:

“I was not given a legitimate opportunity to host under acceptable conditions,” Olbermann said in a statement to THR on Wednesday. “They know it and we know it. Telling half the story is wrong.”

Numerous sources have cited persistant technical difficulties as the source of Olbermann’s primary frustration. In fact, Tommy Christopher at Mediaite noticed that Olbermann had been broadcasting from a dark place and decided to find out why. In recent weeks, after a series of lighting glitches, the set’s lights actually blew out. The mishap forced the program to broadcast from another location, marking the beginning of the pitch black backdrop that has since set the scene (and mood) for Olbermann’s program. The host, in ever infamous snarky fashion, has creatively taken to mocking the technical glitches by lighting a candle to illuminate the set (video at Mediaite).

The Wrap reports that Olbermann’s frustration may be more deeply rooted in the ousting of Current TV’s former CEO.

The problems can be traced back to the ouster of CEO Mark Rosenthal in August, according to a knowledgeable individual.

“When Joel Hyatt bounced Mark Rosenthal so Hyatt could take his job, that’s when things turned out to be difficult,” one individual close to the situation said.

“Once Rosenthal was out, there was no one with TV experience. David Bohrman has never run a news network.”

Bohrman produced multiple news shows on CNN and ABC.

Olbermann and Rosenthal had developed a close working relationship as they attempted to transform Current into a destination for political news and analysis.

Having been plagued by public rifts with other previous employers, some are speculating that Olbermann will eventually branch off and just start his own network, where he can have as much control as he wishes. But so far, Olbermann is chiding much of the reporting out there and continues to promote Countdown on Twitter. For now, anyway, he seems to scoff not only at the speculation of him leaving Current TV but also at the idea of him going it solo.

Not gonna happen. Just “Ask Beck,” Olbermann tweeted.