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Keith Olbermann, the Good and the Bad: It's Ugly

By® Staff

Originally Posted

Around®, we sometimes tune in to "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC, because he approaches what he does -- and there's some question about what that is -- in an unusual, innovative, pretty well-written, and often entertaining and provocative fashion.

Olbermann said exactly the right thing about his own network's Don Imus, after the fired talk-show host called MSNBC's coverage of his recent on-air meltdown "hypocritical" and "unethical."

Olbermann at his best

Olbermann: "This from a man who believed he and his on-air staff were entitled to make sexual, racial, ethnic, or homophobic jokes about anybody and everybody ... when virtually all the employees of a network and an entire news division said, 'We have understood that you haven't fired him the last 10,000 times, but you have to do it now.'"

That's Olbermann at his best; good for you, Keith.

But, even though we have big egos ourselves around here, we don't have a caustic inferiority complex about competitors in our business or fixate on them.

O'Reilly gives him head-aches

Olbermann, on the other hand, can't seem to get his mind off Bill O'Reilly, taking over-the-top "potshots" at a dizzying pace that, while once amusing, now seems childish and sad.

Olbermann continually implies that he and O'Reilly are in some heated competition for viewership; the fact is, they're not even close.

According to data from Nielsen Media Research, posted by Brian Stelter on's TVNewser on Tuesday, 10 Apr 07, compared with CNN, MSNBC, Headline News, and CNBC, FOX News won total viewers by a landslide in both the total day and Prime Time ratings; MSNBC ranked third for total day, but trailed even Headline News in Prime Time. "The O'Reilly Factor" at 8:00 had more than three times the audience of the Olbermann broadcast opposite.

Every FOX show from 5:00 p.m. through midnight led its time slot, with more than one million viewers per show; no program from any of the other cable news networks topped one million, although CNN's Larry King and Lou Dobbs tallied more than 900,000.

"The O'Reilly Factor" does, indeed, dominate cable news, as their promos say, with 2.2 million viewers at 8:00 on the 10th and another 1.46 million at 11:00.

Hell, Nancy Grace beats him!

Olbermann's "Countdown" managed 717,000 viewers, ranking only 13th among the 28 news shows broadcast on the four major cable news networks during the evening hours. Nancy Grace beat Olbermann head to head -- Why doesn't he say bad things about her? He, or anyone else, certainly would be justified! -- and Wolf Blitzer almost did, in a less-watched, hour-earlier time slot.

Olbermann's audience has more than doubled since the last time we did this little exercise, in July 2006, but he has a long way to go before he's more than a noisy, annoying gnat buzzing around the FOX juggernaut. Until then, we suspect many viewers will continue to use "Countdown" as a time-killer until O'Reilly's commercials are over.

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