Keith Olbermann has already rebuilt one napalmed bridge, so why not another? Following his unlikely return to ESPN, which concluded relatively amicably when they didn’t renew his contract this summer, Olbermann could be headed back to another former stomping ground, MSNBC. A source tells Mediaite’s Joe Concha that Olbermann is meeting with NBC News president Andy Lack and discussing a return to the cable politics channel, perhaps even to his old 8 p.m. timeslot:

…[A] well-placed source now informs me that a meeting has been set between Olbermann and Lack to discuss his return to the network and his old 8:00 PM slot. This arrangement was something that Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell first wrote about as a rumor in July; when asked for comment, a network executive with knowledge close to the situation tells me, “It is patently untrue.”

Said source indicates the impetus for the conversation is to jumpstart sagging ratings under Hayes, which despite an Emmy win this year has been a consistent drag on the rest of primetime since launching on April Fools Day in 2013. At one point this year in May, the show averaged only 74k in the demo, making it the worst performing MSNBC program at 8:00 PM since 2005. And given Olbermann is now a free agent after leaving ESPN again in July (Note: on good terms if the company’s farewell statement is any indication), he appears to be the only remedy for Lack.

Also note: The biggest liberal names out there–the kind that attract eyeballs and own the unique ability to go viral–are either locked up in contract and/or (much more importantly) far to pricey: Jon Stewart made a reported $30 million annually with Comedy Central; Bill Maher would never agree to be relatively restrained (compared to the freedom HBO provides), and John Oliver gets paid $2 million annually to be on the air once a week for 30 minutes with a killer research and writing staff. Someone like a John Fugelsang is potentially a more cost-effective, outside-the-box option, but is an unproven commodity on this kind of stage, and MSNBC brass may be (rightly) risk-averse given its recent history in that regard.

In the meantime, a conversation may or may not soon commence between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC, depending on whom you believe. The topic? His possible return to the network.

He isn’t under contract. A huuuugggge campaign season with plenty of comedy to play with is already underway. There probably isn’t a moment on this rollercoaster ride that Olbermann wishes he isn’t attacking with a snarky remark from his old Countdown chair again.

While Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC in January 2011 wasn’t on the best of terms, that doesn’t mean a return is out of the question. Olbermann told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Marisa Guthrie in June 2011 that many of his problems at MSNBC were with then-NBC Universal-president and CEO Jeff Zucker. Zucker’s now at CNN, so that specific personality clash wouldn’t be an issue. Moreover, while Olbermann did create a few controversies during his return to ESPN (particularly with his comments on Penn State and Roger Goodell), he largely played by the rules and was a solid employee. That may illustrate he’s quite capable of going home again. Olbermann also loves politics, and the Republican primary race/leadup to the 2016 presidential election seems like something he’s dying to cover on-air; MSNBC might prove a great forum for that. Meetings don’t necessarily mean anything, and this meeting is even receiving network denials, so nothing may come of this, but at the very least, a potential Olbermann return to MSNBC is an interesting possibility to consider.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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