Keith Olbermann might be returning to his roots. The controversial television personality is in talks to host a New York-based late-night talk show on ESPN2, 16 years after his acrimonious departure from the sports network, according to the New York Daily News.
The move comes at a tenuous time for ESPN. As the Daily News noted, ESPN is looking for ways to counter the anticipated big splash to be made by Fox with the launch next month of its new sports network, Fox Sports 1. Additionally, Deadspin reported that ESPN’s second-quarter ratings were down 32 percent compared with last year.
Before his divisive stints as a political commentator on both MSNBC and the soon-to-be-defunct Current TV, Olbermann was best known to television audiences as the co-host of ESPN’s flagship program, “SportsCenter,” alongside Dan Patrick. The duo were highly visible personalities, coining the phrase “This -- Is ‘SportsCenter’” and defining an era at the network. Olbermann co-hosted “SportsCenter” from 1992 until his departure in 1997.
As Complex noted, Olbermann made his fair share of enemies at ESPN. In an excerpt from the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” anchor Rece Davis explained the general feeling about Olbermann shortly after he left: “There was a rumor a few years ago that maybe Keith would come back, and one of our coordinating producers said, ‘I think it would be a good idea but with one caveat. He first has to stand in the reception area, and everybody who wants to gets to come up and punch him in the stomach.’”
However, it appears as though relations may be thawing. “I wasn’t here when Keith was here, but he is very talented,” ESPN President John Skipper told the Hollywood Reporter. “So I had dinner with Keith. ... And I would not have had dinner with him if we didn’t sit around and think about whether there was a reason to bring Keith back. I haven’t met with him again, but we don’t have a policy here that you can never come back.”
If the rumors about a return to ESPN turn out to be true, Olbermann will be very busy. As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, Olbermann recently inked a deal to anchor TBS’ studio coverage of Major League Baseball postseason competition in October. “It’s well known that Keith is a fan of the game, and when you combine that with his studio experience, keen insight and passion for baseball and its history, he’ll add a new dimension to our MLB postseason studio shows,” David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting, said in a statement.
Olbermann has yet to comment on a potential return to ESPN.