It's fair to say Olbermann's announcement surprised nearly everyone, fan and foe of Countdown alike. It's hard to find anyone that saw Olbermann's departure coming.
According to the New York Times' Bill Carter, MSNBC has already shuffled its schedule to fill the slot left by its star host:
MSNBC announced that "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" would replace "Countdown" at 8 p.m., with "The Ed Show" with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O'Donnell's slot at 10 p.m.
Carter writes "Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time."
Details on Olbermann's departure from MSNBC via the Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz:
A knowledgeable official said the move had nothing to do with Comcast taking control of NBC next week, although the cable giant was informed when it received final federal approval for the purchase that Olbermann would be leaving the cable channel. This official described the dramatic divorce as mutual.
Olbermann's sign-off from the show he turned into the television hub of progressive politics and protest in the last eight years:
Update: On Saturday, speculation about Olbermann's departure from MSNBC and the anchor's next career moves mounted on media sites. The Wrap reported Olbermann was the one who made the decision to leave the network that (on and off) had been his home for more than a decade. The Wrap sites a source who says Olbermann's next move might turn him from TV star to internet darling along the lines of Arianna Huffington:
With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.
The Times' Carter delves into the machinations behind Olbermann's exit and reports MSNBC and the anchor were in talks to end Olbermann's run on the network "for the last several weeks."
"The deal was completed on Friday," Carter reports, "and Mr. Olbermann made the announcement on his final "Countdown" hours later."
Details of the deal are scarce, though Carter reports the "agreement" between Olbermann and MSNBC "includes restrictions on when he can next lead a television show and when he can give interviews about the decision to end his association with the news channel."