Keith Olbermann To Host Primetime Series, Serve as ‘Chief News Officer’ for Current TV

By Alex Weprin 

Former MSNBC “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann will host a one-hour nightly program on Current TV starting later this Spring.

Olbermann will also have an equity stake in Current as part of the deal.

Olbermann made the announcement on a conference call with reporters this morning, joined by Current co-founder and former Vice President Al Gore, Current co-founder Joel Hyatt and Current CEO Mark Rosenthal.

“Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media. Nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independently of corporate interference,” Olbermann said. “In Current Media Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have created what is in my opinion the model truth seeking entity.”

Olbermann says the program “will be, for all intents and purposes, an improved and amplified and stronger version of the show I just did at my previous network,” though he added that the name and time period are still being worked out.

Olbermann will also be joining Current’s executive team, serving as the network’s “Chief News Officer.”  As “CNO,” he will provide editorial guidance on all news and political programming that airs on Current, including its critically acclaimed “Vanguard” documentary series.

“We are going to depend on Keith’s experience and editorial wisdom to provide the editorial guidance for all of our news and political commentary and current events programming,” Rosenthal said.

The addition of Olbermann marks a sea change in Current’s programming strategy. While Current has long produced news programming, it was never really competing with the likes of Fox News, CNN or MSNBC. In many respects it still will not, though the addition of Olbermann moves it one step in that direction. We will have more on Current’s programming strategy after its upfront presentation tomorrow morning.

Current is available in 60 million homes in the U.S., as Olbermann and Gore pointed out on the call, however, when he joined MSNBC in 2003, that network was in 58 million U.S. households, and subsequently saw increased carriage.

Gore, Hyatt and Rosenthal clearly think that adding the opinionated host will boost Current’s distribution, and hopefully ratings.

“This is, as far as we are concerned, the best investment that Current has ever made,” Hyatt said. “Al and Mark and I couldn’t be prouder about it.”