As you’ve undoubtedly read elsewhere, a bridge previously napalmed by Keith Olbermann has apparently been repaired, with the former MSNBC/Current TV host scheduled to make his return to ESPN2 next month, hosting an eponymous 11pm chat show.Though SB Nation’s Steve Lepore is confident the oft-traveled Olbermann, “will produce smart, interesting television”, Keith’s, y’know, old. “ESPN has hired a 54-year-old man whom no one under the age of 25 really remembers doing sports on a regular basis,” warns Lepore, mindful that the younger generation hasn’t had enough of an opportunity to learn that Olbermann’s less annoying than Colin Cowherd.
While Olbermann is very web savvy, and extremely popular on Twitter, you do have to wonder how he’ll court that 18-49 year old audience. One suspects his younger viewers are still expecting politics, and his older viewers aren’t necessarily up late to see him. In addition to that, he is a massive devotee of baseball, typically the oldest-skewing of the major sports. Will enough viewers turn away from SportsCenter or reruns of Family Guy to hear tales about the We Are Family Pirates teams or the Miracle Mets?
Let’s go back to his competition, because that’s important too. There’s going to be a glut of sports shows when he shows up. Though ESPN mentioned in today’s introductory conference call that they think people can use second-screen technology to watch both Olbermann and SportsCenter at the same time, that’s obviously a bit far fetched. Not only will Keith be facing off against his old show, he’ll be facing off against the fresh-faced Fox Sports Live, who have hired anchors in Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole with their own reputation for bringing comedy to sports highlights.
If you want comedy, there’s already too many options. You can watch The Daily Show or Colbert or Conan, all in the same hour on your cable dial. You can watch Adult Swim, which routinely draws some of the highest Adults 18-49 audiences. Some people are still actually watching their local news. Late night is long gone from the days when it was just Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Everybody’s got a show, or they want a show. Does ESPN2 really need one?