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Olbermann’s stunt won’t hurt Maddow, it will just irk viewers

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In a move that will annoy viewers but accomplish little else, Keith Olbermann’s new version of ‘Countdown,’ which premiered on Monday night, ran 63 minutes instead of an hour.

The reason for this is so Olbermann’s show, which is telecast at 8 p.m., will bleed into the 9 p.m. hour, which is when his former protege Rachel Maddow starts her show on MSNBC. The odds that this move will actually hurt Maddow’s ratings are slim. Current is in only 60 million homes, while MSNBC, Olbermann’s old employer, is in more than 95 million homes. Even if the two have a lot of common viewers, there are not enough to really make a dent in Maddow’s numbers.

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Olbermann is hardly the first to play this game. Practically all the broadcast and cable networks bleed their shows into the next hour both as an attempt to boost ratings for that hour and to hurt the competition. It doesn’t really do much except tick off the viewing audience at home.

It also often messes up DVR recordings. Consumers have to take the proactive step of programming their DVRs to extend recordings by five minutes, otherwise the ends of shows are cut off. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but why should consumers have to take all these extra steps just because the networks refuse to start and end their shows on time?

The industry needs to remember that these petty games rarely help the bottom line and only hurt their customers.

-- Joe Flint

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