Is Keith Olbermann getting antsy with ESPN?

Keith Olbermann has been in the news for his recent feud with Mike Francesa and WFAN last week, which he's still continuing by taking shots at the sports pope on Twitter.  With all of the excitement surrounding Olbermann v Francesa, it's easy to forget about Olbermann's day job and why he has this platform to begin with – his ESPN2 show, Olbermann.

Olbermann the show has become a well received late night alternative to SportsCenter and Fox Sports Live.  It offers a nice mix of news, analysis, opinion, interviews, highlights, and Olbermann's unique perspective on all of them.  He's provided smart essays about relevant topics while even poking fun at himself at times.  Given Olbermann's career and the debate-obsessed direction of studio programming in sports, it's been a refreshing entry into sports television.  It's like watching the likable version of Countdown in the pre "Mr. Bush" days.

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There's just one problem though.

You never know when or where to watch the darn thing.  And Keith Olbermann himself doesn't appear too thrilled with that.

Olbermann's ratings have varied wildly thanks in large part to this unpredictable schedule.  In the last 2 weeks of ratings data available at Son of the Bronx (Oct 21 – Nov 3), first run episodes of Olbermann have ranged from just 41,000 viewers at midnight on ESPNEWS to almost 300,000 viewers in what should be its traditional timeslot on ESPN2 at 11 PM ET.  The highest rated episode in that timeframe wasn't even a first showing though, 421k watched on ESPN2 last Friday at 1:12 AM after the program had aired on ESPNEWS and drawn just 76k in viewership.

Thanks to ESPN's live event schedule and games running long, Olbermann has ping ponged back in forth between ESPN and ESPNEWS.  During those two weeks, the premiere program aired on ESPN2 5 times and ESPNEWS 4 times.  (It's replayed throughout the late evening and early morning hours several times as well.)  Start times varied from 11 PM to 12 AM to 11:13 and 11:36, depending on its lead in programming.

As for the host himself, he seems to be a bit frustrated by the unpredictable situation surrounding his show.  Here's a selection of Olbermann tweets from the last week…

KO's volatile history at networks is well documented.  By all accounts the relationship with ESPN is working so far, but given his history (especially with higher ups in Bristol), it's going to be one that calls for careful observation as the days and weeks go forward.  Olbermann the show has been well received by critics and viewers so far, but time will tell if it ever finds a reliable timeslot and what effect that may have on the show and the host's tenure at ESPN.

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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