Olbermann and the MSNBC identity crisis

Michael Wolff wrote at Adweek that the pending merger — which, if it is approved, will coincide with the stepping down of NBC Universal president and chief executive Jeff Zucker – is the true reason for the power shift behind Olbermann’s suspension.

“The background to everything is that is happening at NBC is the transition to Comcast ownership,” he wrote.

Others, such as Mediaite’s Steve Krakauer, saw a power grab by Griffin as Olbermann became less important to the network, which has developed other stars.

“Two years ago, Keith Olbermann was MSNBC,” he wrote. “In many ways, he was untouchable, and he knew it. In a New Yorker profile in June 2008, he joked that his boss, Phil Griffin, ‘thinks he’s my boss.’ Around the same time, a high-level MSNBC source told me, ‘He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We have the entire schedule on him.’ ”

Since then, however, MSNBC has spread the “Olbermann strategy” around, hiring Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell to build out an entire primetime lineup that could be competitive against CNN – though still far behind Fox News.

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