Olbermann (TV series)

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Format Sports
Starring Keith Olbermann
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) ESPN
Original channel ESPN2 or ESPNEWS
Original run August 26, 2013 (2013-08-26) – present

Olbermann is a television talk show hosted by Keith Olbermann on the American cable network ESPN2 that debuted on August 26, 2013.[1] The show, originating from Times Square Studios in New York City (where it shares studio space with Nightline),[2] provides insight, analysis, and opinions primarily on the major sports stories of the day, though it also covers other aspects of pop culture and current events. It airs weeknights at 11:00 p.m. ET, subject to possible delays and/or relocation to ESPNEWS depending on the length of live sports programming leading into the broadcast or pre-planned moves of the show to ESPNEWS due to late sports programming.


Olbermann marks the second tour of duty for Keith Olbermann with the ESPN organization, having served as a popular co-anchor (alongside Dan Patrick) of the main network's SportsCenter between 1992 and 1997; it's also Olbermann's second stint at ESPN's secondary network, ESPN2, where he briefly served as original anchor of the network's SportsNight in 1993-1994. In the decade before Olbermann's debut, Olbermann gained notice as an anchor/commentator on hard news and political discussion, serving as host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which aired on MSNBC and, briefly, Current TV.

Since Olbermann's return to the ESPN family was formally announced in July 2013,[1] much mention has been made in media coverage of the anchor's abrasive off-screen demeanor and his acrimonious partings with several of his previous employers, including his 1997 departure from ESPN. Both Olbermann and ESPN executives have reported "no friction" between them in the run-up to Olbermann's debut (ESPN VP/Programming Jamie Horowitz has noted Olbermann's openness to ideas and suggestions for the program);[3] the anchor himself has owned up to his tempestuous past and his efforts to rebuild bridges with his old colleagues.[4] Olbermann has also indicated he is happy returning to covering sports on a regular basis, telling The New York Times, "If you cover politics for eight years without interruption like I did, you need a change."[3]


Olbermann features highlight packages (or "Keith-Lights") from the day in sports ("Just because I like doing highlights," Olbermann quips), as well as brief updates on off-field news.[3] There are two separate "Keith Lights" segments, one following the opening monologue and the second near the end of the show to recap action that was not completed earlier.

However, what differentiates the show from ESPN's prominent highlight-and-news show SportsCenter is what Olbermann describes as "an attempt to provide context and information and perspective that looks forward to the next day’s interpretations."[3] Olbermann spends the first 10–15 minutes alone at the anchor desk commenting on that day's top sports story or hot topic, with guests invited on during the show to provide their own insights and opinions. Politics are not entirely off limits on Olbermann; rebuffing a report from The New York Times claiming that he was contractually forbidden from speaking about politics on the show,[5] Olbermann said, "There’s nothing preventing me from doing it other than common sense," although he hinted that some aspects of politics would be covered if it crosses paths with the sports world.[6]

In October 2013 Olbermann adopted a more rigid format. The opening monologue and format rundown have switched places, with Olbermann starting the show with the list of topics and introducing the program with "Olbermann is next, by the way, I'm Olbermann." In April 2014, the show again flipped the order of the monologue and the rundown so that the monologue returns to its cold open style and the rundown leads into the first commercial.

Current segments[edit]

Other recurring segments on Olbermann include:[3]

  • "Time Marches On" - a segment that originated as "Oddball" on Countdown. that features Olbermann presenting and commenting on footage of strange news and sports stories from around the world. The segment was renamed "Time Marches On" when Countdown moved to Current TV. Frequently, one of the bits featured involves something put together by Red Bull which annoys Olbermann.
  • "World's Worst" - another Countdown feature adjusted for the sports audience, on people or organizations that have performed something egregious that sets them up for Olbermann's ridicule. This segment is "more gentle and sarcastic" than its counterpart's sharp political tinge on Countdown; Olbermann pokes fun at "the miscreants, losers and riffraff, the unwashed and the unloved," suggesting that viewers "don't take it completely seriously, I don't mean it completely literally, we just call them 'Today's Worst Persons In the Sports World'." Three targets per night are featured, ranked "worse," "worser," and "worst" just as they were on Countdown. Also, as on Countdown, Olbermann tosses his notes at the camera following its conclusion. Although the Worst segment is usually lighthearted in nature, Olbermann will occasionally use the segment to profile someone who did something so bad there is no other place to discuss them.
  • "X Joins/Stays Up Late With KO" - Every episode of Olbermann features a special guest with whom Olbermann will discuss certain issues. Frequent guests include Matthew Berry, ESPN's Fantasy Sports expert who has a fantasy football-centric discussion with Olbermann that has its own title, "Forget About That, What About My Fantasy Team?". Buster Olney and John Clayton, ESPN's baseball and NFL correspondents, also are frequent guests. This was originally the first segment of the show following the cold open monologue, but after the monologue became the opening segment of the show the interview was moved to follow "World's Worst".
  • The Bruno Bash - every Friday, Tony Bruno is the featured guest and has discusses various sports issues with Olbermann.
  • Feature Story - recently added to the show, a story from an ESPN reporter (previously aired, usually) that is of specific interest to the audience is shown.
  • "Tomorrow in History" - Olbermann notes that the day following the broadcast has some sort of special significance. Following this, a series of highlights are revisited with Olbermann saying "here are some highlghts your friends may ask you about in the morning."

The show's signoff follows. As of February 6, 2014, Olbermann pays homage to his former colleague, the late Chet Curtis, by adding a specific touch to the signoff.

I've done all the damage I can do here. In New York, Keith Olbermann, ESPN; for (name), (name), and the entire (Eyewitness News/news) team, good night and good luck.

The names are usually people featured either during the course of the show in the Keith Lights or the Worsts, as well as that night's guest.

After signing off, Olbermann crumples what is left of his notes and tosses them at the camera. For effect, the lens "shatters".

For some episodes, Olbermann has been reduced to thirty minutes. When this happens, the format is adjusted accordingly. The monologue remains, as do "World's Worst" and the interview segment which closes the program. Depending on when these shows are scheduled, the first "Keith Lights" segment may or may not be used. Due to coverage of the 2014 Australian Open, ESPN2 moved Olbermann to 6:00 pm for the weekday balance of the tournament and, since January does not often feature teams playing games in the afternoon during the week, Olbermann filled the time with other highlight packages. Other times the show is reduced for other reasons (see below).

Former segments[edit]

  • "This Week in Keith History" - an interlude that finds Olbermann providing amusing reactions to clips from his earlier ESPN stint that he has not seen in advance ("I haven't seen it, I don't know what it is, I didn't get a hint, and yes I did pay for that haircut"). This segment was only featured for the first two weeks of the show and has since been dropped.

Guest hosts[edit]

Guest hosts have occasionally shown up on Olbermann for various reasons. These were initially done out of necessity due to Olbermann's previously announced commitment to anchor Turner Sports' coverage of the Major League Baseball postseason in October 2013.[7] Larry King was the first substitute host,[8] with Colin Cowherd and Jeremy Schaap following him. The format for these shows was largely scrapped, and Cowherd had his own segment at the end of the show where he ranked whether or not a sports figure was having a good day.

In early 2014, Olbermann suffered a bout of shingles and required some intermittent substitutes. The two most frequent were Adnan Virk and Pablo S. Torre, and in the former case (since Virk is a SportsCenter anchor) the "Keith Lights" segments returned. When Torre substituted the shows were more interview driven. In both cases, the program would often be reduced in length to thirty minutes.

International broadcasts[edit]

  • Canada Canada: Was initially carried on TSN2, normally at midnight ET, i.e. on a tape delay of about one hour. Receiving little promotion, the program was removed from the schedule at the start of October 2013.
  • Australia Australia: Airs on ESPN Australia delayed to 11:00 PM EST.


  1. ^ a b "Olbermann Returning to ESPN2 with Daily Late-Night Show Aug. 26". ESPN Media Zone. 2013-07-13. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Keith Olbermann Finalizes Deal With ESPN," from Hollywood Reporter, 7/16/2013
  3. ^ a b c d e "Olbermann Set to Return to ESPN and Sports News," from The New York Times, 8/25/2013
  4. ^ "Keith Olbermann Defaces A-Rod; Reveals Apologies, Drama Behind ESPN Return," from Hollywood Reporter, 8/23/2013
  5. ^ Miller, James Andrew (2013-07-17). "Olbermann Will Return to ESPN". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  6. ^ Pierce, Scott D. (July 25, 2013), "Keith Olbermann promises no politics on his new ESPN2 show", The Salt Lake Tribune, archived from the original on July 29, 2013, retrieved July 29, 2013 
  7. ^ "Keith Olbermann Returning To TV On Turner," from The Hollywood Reporter, 6/5/2013
  8. ^ "Larry King to Guest-Host 'Olbermann,'" from The Hollywood Reporter, 9/26/2013