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February 03, 2010

Low Ratings May Doom Keith Olbermann?

What a dick move I just did. Yes, that's the way Andrew Malcolm sells the story on his LATimes blog, but he knows it's not true, the same way I know it's not true, but he knew that headline would grab people, and, well, yeah, I figured he was right.

So, okay, I just sort of lied. The question mark doesn't make it okay. Olbermann isn't going to be fired because everyone else at MSNBC (maybe except Maddow, who knows) has lower ratings and they've tried and tried for an actual ratings-winner and Keith Olbermann was as close as they came. And he failed, too.

MSNBC is a basket-case and always has been and always will be. And when you're always in the ratings cellar in every single timeslot, well, Keith Olbermann's smaller-than-Hot-Air audience of 268,000 still looks okay by comparison.

So Olbermann will probably not be fired, at least not until MSNBC finally goes dark, which probably won't happen either, because it's still dirt cheap to run true-crime documentaries all weekend and the channel can afford to lose a bit of money with NBC's wallet behind it. (Although, you know: NBC itself might not continue as a bona-fide network.)

Still: Dishonest headline aside, Olbermann's ratings are back where they belong. In the toilet.

There are a couple of reasons for KO's frustration and anger and volume and core meltdown over the Massachusetts election outcome, among other issues of galactic import. For one, lots more ranters around nowadays on all sides, including that colleague of Keith's with the hugest head in TV. Please, no 3-D for him!

Also, Olbermann's showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction.

It's as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying.

Worst, Olbermann's network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television. While referring to his host almost in the past tense. "Keith has been our tentpole," Griffin says, adding later, "I'm pleased with where we are."

Where they are, as Jeff Bercovici points out over at Daily Finance, is way behind the big boys over at Fox News, Bill O'Reilly and gang. In fact, Keith is so far behind Bill, he can't even make out the state of the license plate, let alone the numbers. Bercovici thinks Americans may be outgrowing Olbermann's schtick.

In the most desirable TV demographic of 25-54, which Keith will soon outgrow himself, "Countdown" lost 44% of its audience from the beginning of President Obama's term until this year. It could have been worse -- say, 45%.

Olbermann averaged 268,000 viewers last month in that sector. That's just several thousand sets of those eyes more than Campbell Brown over on CNN. According to one count, Keith even finished in that time slow behind Nancy Grace. Nancy Grace!

Olbermann rode the Bush Derangement Train to... well, never to good ratings, but he could occasionally claim he beat an O'Reilly holiday repeat in a particular demographic.

But those glory days of incandescent mediocrity are far behind him. Yes, once upon a time, he blazed with the light of a nearly-average star; long ago, he soared high to almost-middling heights. He can still recall the days of wine and roses when moderate ratings were almost within his grasp; when he very nearly sipped the modestly-sweet nectar of almost-median performance.

One day he will tell his grandchildren -- well, grand-nephews and grand-nieces -- about his meteoric rise to the middle, or close to it anyway, and his fall -- not a terribly long fall, but enough to give you a bruise -- back to the bottom.

One day, he will say wistfully, I almost came pretty close to nearly getting a nontrivial number of people knowing vaguely who in the hell I almost was.


Thanks to Kent.

Punching Up: As you all know, when you pick a fight for attention, you punch up, not down. You take a shot at someone bigger, with a bigger audience. You don't get into spats with people with smaller audiences, because while that helps them, it doesn't really help you very much.

Keith Olbermann is going out of his way to mention Hot Air, even when Ed Morrissey offers a pretty routine bit of commentary about a non-issue. It's really just an excuse to mention Hot Air.

Because Hot Air is bigger than Keith Olbermann is.

So, why does Hot Air return the favor, flattering a guy with a smaller audience? Well, probably jut because it's TV, and that seems like it should be bigger and more influential than a blog. But it's not.

We are in a weird time where the lowest-ranked cable TV shows are now actually more poorly rated than the biggest blogs. And it's weird, now, because we're just not used to it. We're still thinking TV is big leagues, blogging is for wannabes.

But that is changing. Keith Olbermann's show is nothing but a ranty blog with camera-changes. Vidblogging never took off on the internet because it's too slow and boring -- people read much faster than someone can talk.

But vidblogging is now the centerpiece on MSBNC, because TV has always been slow and boring. People are used to it.

I can't yet claim this site beats Olbermann, or even pitiable pudgebunny Chris Matthews.

But...

Well, my ratings will go up, and theirs will continue going down.

We'll meet in a place Keith Olbermann considers his comfort zone -- in the middle.


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posted by Ace at 01:29 PM

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