While I won’t say ESPN is necessarily losing sleep over next month’s launch of Fox Sports 1, I think it’s safe to say the network isn’t taking any chance.
ESPN’s hiring of Keith Olbermann should be a strong indicator of that. Two other aspects further clarify that ESPN may, in fact, actually be sweating (if only just a little).
1. ESPN is allowing Olbermann time of in October so that he can anchor MLB post-season coverage for TBS. This, I find the most surprising. After one month on the air (and hopefully after viewers have developed a new habit of watching), the new show and host go on hiatus so he can bring attention to another network outside the Disney/ESPN corporate family.
Why doesn’t ESPN just wait until after the MLB post-season to debut him and avoid the awkward hiatus?
2. ESPN doesn’t normally hire back former on air talents. ESPN President John Skipper in March even backed that up when saying “… this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.”
I do hope this works. I find Olbermann to be a fascinating on air talent, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having another television option for 10 p.m. (even though I don’t normally watch television at 10 p.m. — but just in case I ever decide to).
And when news hits of the first Olbermann blowup a few weeks or months after returning to ESPN, you can look forward to an interesting story. And a few months later, an interesting story on why he’s no longer there.
Just being realistic.
Related Reading: Jeff Bercovici wrote a piece at Forbes.com on how Olbermann needs to take advantage of this opportunity by not being… Olbermann. I could have read this same column last year just before he made his debut at Current TV.