Proving bridges can be rebuilt after they’ve been burned, ESPN is welcoming Keith Olbermann back into the fold. It’s now official: Olbermann, a one-hour show airing generally at 11 p.m. ET Monday-Friday, will debut Aug. 26 on ESPN2.
Back in March, the New York Times reported that Olbermann and his reps had approached ESPN about returning to the network, where he partnered with Dan Patrick to set the standard for SportsCenter. At that time, ESPN’s president John Skipper seemed slightly unreceptive: “I agreed to dinner with Keith because I assumed he’d be provocative and witty and fun to have dinner with, and he was indeed lots of fun,” Skipper told the Times. “Clearly he was looking to see if there was an entry point to come back… After the dinner, at that point, there was no real appropriate place for Keith to come back, nor did I feel like I was prepared to bring him back.” Instead, it was announced in June that Olbermann would host a postseason baseball studio show for TBS.
In today’s announcement, Skipper sang a different tune: “Keith is a one-of-a-kind personality and these shows will be appointment viewing for that very reason,” he said. “Keith brings a blend of editorial sophistication and unpredictability — you can never be sure what you’ll get. Olbermann on ESPN2 gives viewers the quality late-night complement to ESPN’s SportsCenter in the same way we’ve developed distinct show options across our networks the rest of the day.”
Olbermann’s prodigal-son return is especially ironic since he was the reluctant star of ESPN2 when it launched in 1993. Shifted from SportsCenter at the height of his fame to anchor the new network, Olbermann’s tenure at the Deuce had an inauspicious start, with Olbermann wearing a leather coat and beginning the show with the quip, “Welcome to the end of my career.” His tune has also changed: “Apart from the opportunity to try to create a nightly hour of sports television that no fan can afford to miss, I’m overwhelmed by the chance to begin anew with ESPN,” he said in the announcement. “I’ve been gone for 16 years and not one day in that time has passed without someone connecting me to the network. Our histories are indelibly intertwined and frankly I have long wished that I had the chance to make sure the totality of that story would be a completely positive one. I’m grateful to friends and bosses — old and new — who have permitted that opportunity to come to pass. I’m not going to waste it.”