Behind the Keith Olbermann Firing: What Went Down? What's Next For Host?

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In the 36 hours since the surprise announcement that MSNBC fired Keith Olbermann, his abrupt exit from a network he helped transform has raised questions.

Why fire a guy with such undisputed value to the network, a figure who - love him or hate him - became one of the best-known figures of the cable news era?

Insiders say no single event got him axed, but for all his eloquence, on-air presence and broadcasting skill, Olbermann was just too difficult to work with.

According to the Washington Post, Olbermann often clashed with his employers, condemning - often publicly - directives with which he has disagreed.

Comcast's recent takeover of NBC merely marked the final straw in a long-brewing deterioration between the top brass and the iconoclastic, mercurial pundit.

Neither side was talking about the events that led Olbermann to announce his exit on his show Friday, but a divorce appeared to be long in the making.

His short-lived and bizarre suspension in November for campaign contributions that violated company policy was perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

So what's next for him now?

Olbermann and MSNBC are operating under an exit agreement, the product of lengthy negotiations, that limits, first off, each side from commenting publicly.

Sources say Olbermann's agent went to NBC looking for a raise for Keith, claiming he was underpaid (compared to his counterparts) at $7 million per year.

NBC would not pay more money and made clear they felt he was "a loose cannon that could not be controlled." At that point, it was just a question of when.

According to a person with knowledge of the discussions, the agreement also ties Olbermann to a "non-compete" provision but pays his salary through 2012.

He won't be allowed to appear on a competing TV network for an undisclosed period, but how long that is (three months, six months, a year) is unclear.

The long and short of it? Keith Olbermann saw the writing on the wall with the new owner of NBC and cut a deal for his exit to give him money and options.

Sources say Olbermann may reappear soon "with a presence on the Internet," and may return to sports broadcasting or commentary in some capacity.

Don't expect a return to ESPN, with which Keith parted on terms as bad as these if not worse. But the avid baseball fan could resurface elsewhere.

As for a return to TV, you have to imagine it's just a matter of time. When the non-compete runs out, someone will take a chance on the lightning rod.

Wherever he ends up, a legion of supporters will surely follow, while a fair number of detractors will continue to delight in his toppling from MSNBC.

Here's Keith's final Countdown signoff on Friday night ...

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i'm so sorry Kieth is not with msnbc or current. I am sure i will see him or hear him soon and where ever he goes we will follow. He is one of a kind. Love you Kieth.

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yay..he was an asshole. I am a liberal and I think he was an asshole. Big mouths like him give my party a bad name.

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We watched Keith Faithfully and because Rachael followed him, we of course watched her show as well. Unfortunately we no longer watch MSNBC. We will miss Keith very much and hope he comes back to TV soon.

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It is a sad day for American journalism. It proves once more that objectivity does not exist any more in our country. Lucky for me, I learned a foreign language, I can compare and somehow extract the truth from it all. I feel sorry for my fellow Americans that does not have this advantage, because we are isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. And I thought China and Russia were bad.

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Sure do miss Keith. MSNBC really not worth watching much anymore.
Ed Rachel and Lawrence are ok but NOBODY holds a candle to Keith

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I loved Keith's show and watched him Monday through Friday... I am, however, not surprised (although I was deeply disappointed to hear of his show's demise) that he has been turfed... He was an outspoken journalist, unafraid to tell it like it is.... I look forward to seeing Keith, very soon, in a new venue...

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I love Keith and watched him faithfully. I even wathched Rahel Madow and Lawrence O'Donnel most nights. I no longer watch MSNBC and will be looking forwarding to the day Keith returns to television!

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I miss Keith terribly. I looked forward to his broadcast everyday. I still tune in to Rachael, but the network has really made a huge mistake. While I really like Rachael Maddow (I used to tune in for the two hours), the appeal is not what it was. As soon as I find Keith broadcasting elsewhere, I will be gone.

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keith is my hero, not a coward like rush. where was rush while i was in nam? i would rather have keith at my back than any of the punks at fox.

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Keith is awesome. I will no longer need to have MSNBC on my cable selection list. MSNBC will regret this decion. Good riddens MSNBC.

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