March 31, 2023

Olbermann Set to Return to ESPN and Sports News

The succinctly titled comeback vehicle, making its debut at 11 p.m. Eastern time, also returns Mr. Olbermann to sports journalism after more than 10 years in hard news, especially politics.

Although fabled throughout television as fitfully incorrigible and occasionally contentious — as well as uniquely talented for the contours of the medium — Mr. Olbermann says he has been enjoying his new environment during weeks of preparation for the premiere.

“There has been no friction at all,” he said of recent rehearsals and dry runs. “No one has said to me, ‘We let you back in, now sit back and shut up.’ Instead they’ve said, ‘We’ve let you back in, now tell us everything you want and why.’ ”

Calling Mr. Olbermann “incredibly responsive” to ideas and suggestions, Jamie Horowitz, ESPN’s vice president for original programming and production, said that a dreaded “degree of rigidity” on Mr. Olbermann’s part “is not there,” and that he has been affable and amenable.

“Because of his past TV series, there had been some reticence by the staff to tell him to try certain things,” Mr. Horowitz said. “But he’s been accountable and willing to do things. Even if I want to change a word in his script, he’s said, ‘O.K., Jamie, I’ll change it.’ ”

This does sound like a new Olbermann. He became notorious for his outspoken dissatisfaction with aspects of the profession, including management decisions, technical capabilities and journalistic vision. Such have been the raw ingredients for dramas during Mr. Olbermann’s rocky career not just at ESPN, but at Fox, MSNBC and, most recently, Current TV (reinvented under new management as Al Jazeera America).

For all Mr. Olbermann’s seemingly newfound willingness to accept advice, Mr. Horowitz said, the show is nevertheless every bit as Keith-centric as the title suggests.

“The format plays to why people like Keith,” Mr. Horowitz said. “Strong commentary, insights and his unique gift for communicating.”

Each nightly show will begin with Mr. Olbermann alone at the anchor desk for 10 to 15 minutes, reviewing as few as one or as many as 10 sports events making news. “Essentially, it will be an attempt to provide context and information and perspective that looks forward to the next day’s interpretations,” Mr. Olbermann, 54, said.

A short interview with a notable subject that plays off an aspect of one of those stories will follow, then videotaped highlights of the day’s events. “Just because I like doing highlights,” he said.

“Highlights” will be followed by a playful interlude tentatively titled “This Week in Keith History,” with clips of Mr. Olbermann from “SportsCenter,” from 1992 to 1997, that he has not seen in advance. His job will be to react amusingly.

Producers have shown five clips of “Keith History” in rehearsals, and Mr. Olbermann said he had remembered only two of them. “Reactions I’ve shown are disgust and amazement,” he said, “and I’ve had the bad taste to laugh at my old jokes.”

Among other recurring segments will be a bit introduced by Mr. Olbermann on “Countdown” on MSNBC, adapted for ESPN2 viewers. “The Worst Person in the World,” in which Mr. Olbermann held a prominent newsmaker up for ridicule, will now be “The Worst Person in the Sports World,” which Mr. Olbermann described as the same idea, but “more gentle and sarcastic.”

Guests on the show will be chosen not only because they are newsworthy, but because Mr. Olbermann wants them. “The first guest booked for this show was completely my doing,” he said. “He will be appearing the last week in September and his name is Richard Lewis,” the comedian. “We met at a Lakers game 20 years ago.” Guests for the first week will include Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks; David Epstein, a writer for Sports Illustrated; John McEnroe, the former tennis champ; Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Denver Broncos; and Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Another segment, “Time Marches On,” will feature an off-the-wall look at an oddity in the news or making the rounds online. During rehearsals recently, one segment showed a YouTube video of a woman trying to shoo away two bears who were fighting with each other in a forest. Mr. Olbermann concluded with, “and those are your bears highlights for tonight.”

However genuine Mr. Olbermann’s enthusiasm for the new show appears to be, he is still dogged by questions implying that he has left the world of politics with great reluctance. He insists that is balderdash.

“No, I won’t miss politics,” he said. “My understanding of my own emotions relative to politics was really clarified in the past year. I was invited on ‘This Week With George Stephanopoulos.’ I did it twice, and they invited me on many more times. We talked about doing it on a regular basis, but I found myself coming up with really bad excuses to not do it, like my dog needs my attention. I finally figured out I just didn’t like the subject matter anymore.

“If you cover politics for eight years without interruption like I did, you need a change,” he said. “After all, we retire our presidents after eight years. Why you should make anybody cover our political system beyond that is a mystery to me. It was pretty much burned out of me.”

Nevertheless, he said he was refreshed and ready for the latest chapter in his roller-coaster professional life. “People who see me now say I look about five years younger than I did at Current,” he said.

Richard Sandomir contributed reporting.

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NYSE Euronext Says It Intends to Open on Wednesday

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Stock Exchange operator NYSE Euronext intends to open as usual on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, but testing its contingency plan as well, “just in case,” Larry Leibowitz, the company’s chief operating officer, said on Tuesday.

“As of now, we are shooting hard to open tomorrow and fully expect to do so,” he said in an interview.

(Reporting By John McCrank)

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Economix: Answering Questions About Madoff

Diana B. Henriques, senior financial reporter for The New York Times and author of “The Wizard of Lies,” an account of the Bernard Madoff scandal, will be answering questions posed online today on Quora, a site devoted to curating knowledge collaboratively by compiling questions and answers. Ms. Henriques, who interviewed Mr. Madoff extensively in prison, will field questions from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern time. It is the first of three weekly question-and-answer sessions on Quora featuring Times reporters. Read more »

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