Keith Olbermann Returns to Disney’s ESPN for Nightly Show

Keith Olbermann, a TV host with a history of drawing viewers and battling his bosses, will return to Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN sports network to host a nightly show.

Olbermann, 54, comes back to the network starting Aug. 26 with a daily late-night program airing at 11 p.m. New York time, Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN said today in a statement.

“Olbermann” will air on ESPN 2, focusing on relevant sports topics through a mix of commentary, interviews, panel discussions and highlights. Olbermann, who hosted liberal-leaning shows on MSNBC and Current TV, won’t discuss politics, except as it relates to sports, he said on a conference call with reporters.

“If George W. Bush wants to talk baseball, I’d be happy to have him,” Olbermann said.

Olbermann had been a popular host on “Sports Center,” ESPN’s nightly newscast, in the 1990s. The network is bringing him back as it braces for competition from Fox Sports 1, a 24-hour channel from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. that begins next month.

“Clearly the timing of some of what we’re doing is intended to put us in a competitive position,” ESPN President John Skipper said on the conference call.

Olbermann left ESPN in 1997 after falling out with executives. Then after three years with Fox Sports Networks, Olbermann landed at NBCUniversal’s MSNBC. The political show “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” ran for eight years and ended with the host leaving in January 2011.

After that, Olbermann joined Al Gore’s Current TV cable channel in February 2011. The 13-month stint ended with lawsuits and insults between Olbermann and the network.

“There is no way to forecast my career path,” Olbermann said on the call. “I’ve given up trying.”

He said he appreciates the “fresh start” at ESPN.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, rose 0.5 percent to $65.36 at the New York close. The stock has climbed 31 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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