Back in 2001, the ESPN PR man, one of the best in the business, issued a famous quote about Keith Olbermann’s relationship with the network: “”He didn’t burn bridges here. He napalmed them.”
Well, it turns out that even bridges that have been napalmed can be rebuilt.
James Andrew Miller of the New York Times reported late last night ESPN is expected to announce today that Olbermann will host late-night sports talk show on ESPN2. The show will begin later this year.
On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies.
While some ESPN insiders reportedly voiced the opinion that Olbermann was part of the network’s past, not its future, his star quality is almost unmatched in the sports television arena; he seems to draw a crowd. Rumors had been bubbling for weeks that ESPN would put aside the difficulties of the past and invite Olbermann back.
Indeed, this is a logical move for ESPN. It comes at a time when the publicity machine for the new Fox Sports 1 network is in high gear. Olbermann’s return gives ESPN a chance to to steal some of the headlines, along with rolling out a major new vehicle to compete with Fox Sports 1’s new late-night version of SportsCenter.
By the way, Olbermann also will go up against ESPN’s version of SportsCenter, creating an interesting ratings dynamic.
Technically, Olbermann actually had a limited return to the network in 2005 when he did a weekly one-hour spot on ESPN Radio.
Obviously, this is much, much bigger. One thing is certain: When Olbermann is involved, you know it won’t be dull.