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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Keith was the only one worth watching and the only one who could brilliantly skewer the hatecraft and uninformed fearmongering of drones like O'Reilly and Hannity with surgical precision. All we get now are that coked-up militant lesbian Maddow and charisma-less snooze-fest O'Donnell

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Damn I missed his last show. He was the first person I decided to follow on twitter. Loved his "The Worst Person In The World" segment and his "This The ..... Days Since...." Signoff

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Our Country is about to collapse. One person fired , no big deal. I think that bad times are coming. Rich people drive this country over the cliff , and we are just here to watch it happen. I love US but recently we moved to different country to be safe. It is going to take 20 to 50 years in US for changes to take place . Good luck to everybody .

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I will miss miss miss Keith, and will look for him and follow where ever he goes. He was real, honest, and unaffraid. In the words of another late great he was he was unbought and unbossed. Until you return....if it weren't for Rachel, Chris and ED I would forever turn off MSNBC. Love You Keith!

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MSNBC has finally seen the writing on the wall, none of their hate spewing diva's share mainstream America's views...........

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I have always been a Conservative Republican with some Liberal tendencies, if that makes sense. I can only take so much of Fox and I would frequently flip over to Keith for another point of view. Whether I agreed or not, I often learned something new and was consistently entertained. The O'Donnell guy is great when I need to fall asleep. This is a loss for MSNBC.

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How funny ..... Olberman has been literally ranting and raving for years. So much so that just listening to him would send anyone into a manic depressive state. Same with Chris Matthews .... MSNBC is famous for lathering up the distention of the public and then acting as if they have nothing to do with public discourse. Olberman's style of bipolar rants must not be selling anymore with the pubic. Go figure!!!

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I'm very sorry to see Keith Olbermann gone, although I expected it. MSNBC's past performance with Phil Donahue showed clearly where the honchos of this channel really were. The channel still has the anti-democrat (yes, small "d") doing "Morning Joe". MSNBC will, no doubt, become much worse under its new owner. Will the other few liberals provide enough viewership to make it worht MSNBC's while to provide a liberal viewpoint? After all, I know that doing so is really distasteful to this channel.

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I trust Keith Olbermann and his outspoken viewpoint on politics. As Keith has been ousted, I announce my "hunger strike". Until Keith returns I shall not view ANY program on MSNBC and I have dumped Comcast. I hope everyone who appreciated the integrity and honesty and brilliance of Keith Olbermann will announce their "hunger strike" and don't watch MSNBC and drop Comcast. He would do this for all of us without a doubt.

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It's a shame for both parties. Keith belonged on MSNBC at 8pm. He may have been a diva, but he was the network's brightest light, with Maddow an improving second. She should have been moved to 8PM. O'Donnell in that time slot is just lame. Why do they still call it "The Last Word"? Where can KO go? CNN? Maybe. Did he burn his bridges there? I just want him back.

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