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Wild Card: Olbermann and Current TV

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Indeed, there are no guarantees that he’ll play nice with the TV veterans who actually run the show at Current. The network is a murderer’s row of former MTV talent. CEO Mark Rosenthal served as the president and chief operating officer of MTV Networks for nearly a decade, and as entertainment president of the Viacom networks unit, programming chief Brian Graden developed such zeitgeist-defining hits as South Park, The Hills and Jackass.

Other former MTV hands are ex-ad sales boss Hank Close, who is serving as a consultant to Ken Ripley, Current’s evp of advertising sales, and Courtney Menzel, the channel’s evp of distribution.

An MTV higher-up who worked closely with Graden, Close and Menzel allowed that it would be difficult to find three people who’d be less likely to endure any outbursts from our generation’s Edward R. Murrow.

“These are people who worked in a heated but very collaborative environment,” the MTV exec said. “Yelling and screaming aren’t going to cut it.”

A former MSNBC hand said that Rosenthal would bear the brunt of Olbermann’s peculiarities should they indeed manifest themselves at Current.

“Every boss he’s ever had has hated Keith’s guts, and probably no one hated his guts more than [MSNBC president] Phil [Griffin],” the source said. “And because Keith doesn’t really give a shit about the kinds of things most people give a shit about—you know, things like having a job and sort of knowing when to choose your battles—sooner or later he explodes.”

What many people don’t understand about Olbermann is that he more or less was the boss of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup. Once Countdown caught fire in 2006, network brass understood that he held the keys to the network’s immediate future. “He went from being on his way out the door to running prime,” said a former MSNBC talent. “Phil turned over the day-to-day operations to Dan Abrams, and Keith just steamrolled all over him. The last five years, he was running things.”

As Olbermann begins to prepare the ground for his new program, Rosenthal promised that Current would spend the next few months getting the word out. “We’re not going to be quiet anymore,” he said, adding that the net was developing a comprehensive print and on-air campaign.

And if anyone had any trepidation about the big “get,” Gore dismissed the notion with a wry joke: “To be candid, the thing I worry about most is Keith’s show because he’s so shy.”


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