Jobless Keith Olbermann sparks CNN speculation


CNN founded the concept of 24-hour cable news, but has since fallen on hard times as Fox News Channel and MSNBC have greatly diminished its share of the genre’s total audience. A media observer has noted the travails of CNN and the presence of Keith Olbermann on the beach and sees a possible partnership, down the road.

The speculation comes from Jon Friedman at MarketWatch. He notes CNN’s diminishing returns, and the fact that it’s latest attempt to compete with Fox and MSNBC, Parker-Spitzer, is continuing to spin its wheels.

The advantages of bringing on Olbermann are many, notes Friedman. He certainly knows how the genre works, and he is a master of stirring up enough controversy that he regularly gets others to provide untold dollars worth of free promotion for his own benefit.

More importantly, he has a large loyal following that would be highly likely to follow him wherever he may go, and CNN would be no exception.

However, as an iconic voice from the left side of the US political spectrum, he will make no attempt – nor would his show work – if he suddenly decided to host a middle-of-the-road analysis show where all sides get an equal opportunity to voice their opinions.

Friedman concluded, “For its part, CNN has to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. The network is content to hire someone like Spitzer, whose past couldn’t be more scandalized. Meanwhile, in its public proclamations, CNN takes great comfort in perpetuating an image that its straight-down-the-middle broadcasting style gives it some sort of purity while those barbarians at Fox and MSNBC spew biased news reports. CNN can make a bold statement by hiring Olbermann at some point. And if there is one quality that CNN needs to demonstrate, it is boldness.”

CNN should have plenty of time to think about it, anyway. As Friedman noted, Olbermann no doubt has a cooling off period in his immediate future under terms of a non-compete of one sort or another.

RBR-TVBR observation: Hiring a lightning rod like Olbermann would require a major philosophical shift regarding CNN’s policy of maintaining some semblance of journalistic objectivity in its programming. But the longer its problems continue, and the longer Olbermann is catching some rays on the shore, the more we will likely hear speculation about a possible wedding between the two.