Media Blog

New Profile Says Olbermann Making $10 Million A Year at Current

A new profile of the former MSNBC anchor entitled “The Confessions of Keith Olbermann” has been published in the Hollywood Reporter:

He is drawing a salary of $10 million a year, says a source. (Current TV disputes the figure but adds it does not “disclose confidential, contractual details.”) Meanwhile, Olbermann will continue to collect his MSNBC wage for another year and a half. At Current, where he is also chief news officer with an equity stake in the company, he is No. 4 on the corporate ladder behind Gore, Hyatt and CEO Mark Rosenthal, an MTV veteran who was on Current’s board before being tapped in 2009 to re-invent the network’s programming. Olbermann’s equity has the potential to inflate his payday exponentially over the life of his five-year deal. Sources say that Countdown will cost about $15 million a year to produce, and the network is spending another $5 million upfront on marketing. All this for a cable channel that is only in 60 million homes in channel Siberia (versus MSNBC’s 95 million with prime positioning). Says Rosenthal, “We will spend the money we need to spend to make Keith into even more of a household name than he already is.”

The piece also devotes a section to Olbermann’s many feuds, and notes that he no longer speaks with Rachel Maddow:

[…]Olbermann has larger targets than ESPN (from whose campus it’s rumored he is banned) — like longtime “worst person” staple Murdoch. On Twitter, he attacked Murdoch after News Corp. dropped Current on Sky Italia. Olbermann excoriated Murdoch’s “evil empire” and later vowed a fight: “Rupert, you have been warned.” Olbermann also launched the FOK News Channel website and Twitter feed (FOK is an acronym for “Friends of Keith,” and the logo is designed to ape Fox News Channel’s “patriotic” red, white and blue emblem). The FOK site now redirects to Current’s Countdown page, where Olbermann has been posting videos including “worst persons” segments — which until last week he was recording in the den of his Upper East Side apartment.

But these recent playground skirmishes pale in comparison to his tenure at MSNBC. Olbermann’s departure was the culmination of years of simmering tensions. Indeed, he admits the split was so bad he still has not spoken to onetime mentee Rachel Maddow: “There were lots of people who were forced to choose sides. And particularly in Rachel’s case, I didn’t want to add to the pressure on her already. The last thing I need to do is be calling her up and saying, ‘How’s that Michael Steele working out for you?’ [He signed to NBC as a political analyst on May 23.] Which is exactly what I would do if I were in the office.”

Nat Brown is a former deputy web editor of Foreign Affairs and a former deputy managing editor of National Review Online.

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