Keith Olbermann and MSNBC abruptly announced tonight that "Countdown" has ended, effective immediately. Olbermann broke the news during his show's final sign-off, saying he was told only today that "this is going to be the last edition of your show." (Full video below.) MSNBC issued a statement with the news following tonight's episode.
The bizarre timing of the announcement has raised a number of speculations, from Olbermann's suspension last November to the departure of NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker in light of the network's recent acquisition by Comcast.
NBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said the Comcast merger had nothing to do with the decision.
Within minutes of the announcement, MSNBC unveiled their restructured evening lineup. Lawrence O'Donnell, host of "The Last Word," will move to 8 P.M., while "The Ed Show" with Ed Schultz will air at 10 P.M. Rachel Maddow's program will remain in its original 9 P.M. slot.
A source close to MSNBC management said network executives have grown increasingly impressed by O'Donnell and feel he has "grown into the job nicely." According to the source, Schultz will play well with both the late night and west coast audiences.
"The debut of the new lineup will be the State of the Union, with Lawrence now the central player," the source said. Another source close to the network's management said that O'Donnell's background in both politics and entertainment helps him. "O'Donell is a liberal Democrat, but he is an inside player -- a player -- by nature, having worked on the Hill for Pat Moynihan and in Hollywood."
Others believe "Hardball" host Chris Matthews will benefit from the shakeup. "One of the other winners in this is Chris Matthews," a source close to MSNBC management said. "He's been steady and uncomplaining. His numbers are better and he has a natural Philly connection to Comcast."
MSNBC's statement on Olbermann reads as follows:
MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.
Wow... I'm thinking the culmination of his suspension from the network earlier last year and the Gifford shooting/political vitriol plus possible sagging ratings (lets be for real, if his numbers were high they wouldn't consider canceling the show) resulted in the network pulling the plug. But they didn't have to boot him out so unceremoniously.