Let’s look ahead. While Keith was a market maker for MSNBC, the new lineup will remain very strong. I would be very surprised if any other dramatic changes come any time soon. Rachel Maddow will continue to be a major star, I expect Ed Schultz to draw very powerful ratings in the 10 p.m. time slot and Ed will continue (bless him) to be Ed.
Lawrence O'Donnell will be solid, and one of my predictions in my recent 2011 predictions column in The Hill was that Cenk Uygur will be a major new star, which I am more convinced than ever he will. As more viewers watch Cenk in the 6 p.m. time slot, his talent as a leading progressive host will receive greater attention and his ratings, while always solid, will be even stronger and his new slot will be a career-making launching pad.
I think Keith's most natural habitat would be HBO, or a similar place. While some think CNN, which is certainly possible, an HBO-like home would be a home run and a natural for Keith, once his contractual limits expire — most likely, based on industry practice, in about 9 months, take or give.
One way or the other, Keith Olbermann is one of the great talents in cable political programming. He will be back, he will be back big, and like Sinatra he will do it his way. Keith will be missed while he is gone, and welcomed with great fanfare by his legions of fans when he returns.
In the meantime, MSNBC will remain a strong No. 2, well ahead of CNN, and anyone on the right who chortles at recent events is in for a big, and for them unhappy, surprise.