ESPN made the announcement today. The once-black sheep of the ESPN family will officially return to the roost on August 26 when Keith Olbermann hosts the debut of the 11 p.m. ET show aptly titled "Olbermann" on ESPN2.
According to the press release, the show will discuss the day in sports and be "a mix of perspective and commentary, interviews, contributors, panel discussions and highlights." It will originate from ABC's Times Square studios in New York and air live each night. There will be times when the show will be delayed due to sports. In fact, the premiere is on the same night as the first day of action of the U.S. Open on ESPN2 and there is a potential for tennis overruns to delay the start of the program during the first two weeks of the new series.
As for Keith's previously announced gig with TBS to host the MLB Postseason in October, the show will take a hiatus during that period so Olbermann can concentrate on those duties.
During a media conference call, ESPN President John Skipper stressed, that having Olbermann at 11 p.m. "makes us better and is consistent with our philosophy that we want good content on all of our networks, all of our platforms across all of ESPN."
As for politics where Olbermann has had his bread buttered dating back to 2003 on MSNBC and then Current, ESPN President John Skipper stressed, "This is going to be a sports show and clearly a sports show and politics and governance and elections are not going to be a subject of the show," however, if a news story transcends into sports, there are no restrictions for Obermann to broach the topic.
Olbermann said, "If I wanted to go and do politics, I'd still be doing politics, clearly this is something else. No political segments, no cultural segments are planned, but if the House is considering a bill to make PED's use a capital offense, we'll cover it… We're not going to talk politics."
On Olbermann's first stint at ESPN that left many in Bristol with a bad taste in their mouths, Keith said he didn't want his relationship with the company and some of his co-workers during the 1990's to be part of his obituary. OIberman stressed that he wanted to find a way to make it better and get an opportunity "to make amends where possible," meaning that he's willing to meet with people and apologize for his past actions. Whether that gets him back in good graces with his former and future co-workers remains to be seen.
But as for the show, both Skipper and Olbermann stressed they want to be responsive to the news and he'll eventually appear on other ESPN platforms once the show gets off the ground. They didn't reveal much about the format other than there will be panel discussions and some regular guests.
And as for some people who won't watch the program over his political leanings Olbermann responded, "I don't have any particular worry about that … the nature of why people won't watch will change from time to time," He added, "If you have a different poltical view than the one I've expressed in the last few years, you should be probably happy to see I'm not doing politics anymore, so there's that."
Deadline's Nikki Finke reports that Disney President and CEO Robert Iger and ESPN Chief Executive George Bodenheimer both signed off and were heavily involved in Olbermann's return so this move was not a surprise to the company higher-ups.
While the ESPN conference call with Skipper and Olbermann was underway, several of Keithy's past and soon-to be future colleagues at the network gave their reaction to his return.
Here's MLB Network's and NBC Sports Radio's Brian Kenny who worked with Olbermann at ESPN/ESPN Radio.
Congratulations to both sides on @KeithOlbermann return to ESPN. Keith is a pleasure to work with, & a blast of honest skepticism.
— Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) July 17, 2013
ESPN hockey maven John Buccigross had this to say.
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) July 17, 2013
SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry kept it simple.
Baseball Tonight's Karl Ravech was genuinely happy to hear of Olbermann's return.
@KeithOlbermann very much looking fwd to KO returning. IMO, when it came to anchoring SC, there was Keith, and then everyone else. Welcome
— karl ravech (@karlravechespn) July 17, 2013
Randy Scott who has not worked with Olbermann shares his enthusiasm for Keithy's return.
— Randy Scott (@RandyScottESPN) July 17, 2013
Olbermann referenced this during his media conference call, that he told his childhood friend, Chris Berman about his return at the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) July 17, 2013
And lastly, we have the reaction of NESN's Jack Edwards who worked with Olbermann at ESPN in the 1990's. Jack is always colorful.
This week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us. ESPN tries to fend off late night irrelevance, brings back old comrade @KeithOlbermann.
— Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards) July 17, 2013
Olbermann's return to sports will be watched heavily. And as Deadline's Finke wrote in her report, the TV industry will watch closely to see if the new show brings a new Olbermann, or one that will self-destruct as has occured in his previous gigs.