Keith Olbermann returned to the airwaves Wednesday night, but the rift between the bad boy anchor and his superiors at Current TV has not dissipated a day after he refused to lead the network’s coverage of the Iowa caucus, TheWrap has learned.
The newsman has tapped high-powered lawyer Patricia Glaser to “determine his rights” in his five-year contract, an individual close to him told TheWrap.
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.”
Glaser would only tell TheWrap that “the lawyers are communicating.”
Months of simmering tension between Olbermann and Current TV boiled over on Tuesday after the anchor announced that he would not play a part in the network’s coverage of the Iowa caucus.
But that was just the most public sign of recent dissension. TheWrap spoke to multiple individuals on both sides of the rift. They said that Olbermann is frustrated by the slow growth of the network and its shoddy facilities (the anchor has lit a candle on his desk to mock the network’s occasional blackouts).
Meanwhile, Current executives have tired of Olbermann’s controlling nature and his evident aversion to sharing the spotlight with recently-hired hosts Cenk Ugyar and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Countdown-with-Keith-Olbermann/171640/2179514206/Brian-Beutler-weighs-in-on-Republican-regret-over-the-continuing-payroll-tax-cut-delay/embed 580 476]
How long senior management will tolerate what they term “Keith being Keith” remains to be seen.
A standoff looms as the New Hampshire primary approaches next Tuesday, with Olbermann demanding to anchor the coverage on his terms.
One individual said that if Current allows Olbermann to cover the results on his “Countdown” program, peace may return to the network fold.
But for how long? An executive insisted that Olbermann decided to sit out the Iowa caucus. The anchor wanted to do his own Countdown telecast, and not be part of a larger team effort.
An internal memo written by Current President David Bohrman claiming Olbermann chose not to appear leaked, and Olbermann responded by blaming the executives, saying the conditions were not “acceptable.”
But the real problems had been growing for months, even as the network has seen only minor growth with Olbermann.
Olbermann joined the network in February as the Chief News Officer, but several individuals said that it only took a few months for him to become dissatisfied with his new home.
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.
The decision to bring in Uygur and Granholm as hosts was Bohrman’s.
As he reportedly did at MSNBC, Olbermann has insisted on controlling every facet of his program — the on-air script, the copy on the show’s website and even how “Countdown” was marketed. He tweets multiple show plugs around 7 p.m. ET as a primary vehicle of promotion.
For his part, Olbermann has tired of how slowly Current was building. Constant power outages aggravated the irascible anchor. Moreover, a spotty car service apparently had guests arriving late.
“When it rains there, the entire show is in jeopardy,” the individual said.