First, Arianna Huffington gets $315 million from AOL for the HuffPo and winds up with editorial control of their entire content. Keith Olbermann gets … a nightly news show on an all-but-invisible cable channel and editorial control of its news content. Who had the best week?
Current announced Tuesday that Olbermann will host a nightly prime-time news and commentary show. His program will begin later this year.
The network said Olbermann will also serve as chief news officer and have an equity stake in Current Media.
Who knew that editorial control was such a commodity? Of course, that was a bigger deal at AOL than at Current TV, whose schedule is generously described by the AP as “little-seen.” In fact, it was such a big deal that my friend Matt Lewis became the first to escape the HuffPo editorial regime by signing on with the Daily Caller, a move announced earlier today.
It’s a good deal for Current at a small price; one has to imagine that an “equity stake” in Al Gore’s venture would be worth just a little south of the monthly interest on Arianna’s windfall. Olbermann, unlike Current, actually has a viewer base that will travel with him, assuming they can find the channel on their cable or satellite TV systems. Actually, that’s a little unfair, as Current actually does have nationwide reach on DirecTV, DISH Network, and Comcast. It’s just that they’re still “little seen” even with the reach into tens of millions of homes.
Still, Olbermann had a much better platform at MSNBC before fleeing the network, and almost certainly a more lucrative one as well. Becoming chief news officer of Current TV is hardly a good trade for the prime-time position at MSNBC, and while some of his viewers will seek him out, most of them will probably stay put with Larry O’Donnell. However, as Mitch Berg recalls, I actually predicted this at the time it happened, right down to the equity stake, on our NARN broadcast the day after his departure. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years — and whether Al Gore and Keith Olbermann can live with each other for that long.