Is MSNBC better off without Keith Olbermann? Given the 8pm time slot, Lawrence O’Donnell outperformed Olbermann on Monday. The high profile firing also gave the entire network a ratings boost. But that doesn’t mean the network will get out of this unscathed.

Hirings and firings often boost ratings temporarily. For example, the week before he left NBC, Conan O’Brien scored a 2.4 rating instead of the 1.1 that he had been averaging. If Keith had announced that he was leaving Countdown before his final show, there may have been a similar ratings spike.

Its been a little more than a week now since Olbermann left the airwaves for reasons (somewhat) unknown, and there is already enough evidence in the ratings that the network is suffering. And they could suffer more when he returns to television and steals back his detached liberal viewers.

O’Donnell’s first week average was just a bit higher than Olbermann’s last week on air, but thats mostly due Monday’s premiere. He attracted 1.5 million on that first day, but then averaged just over a million for the three nights after that. He will likely hover around those numbers for the foreseeable future.

Elsewhere on the network, Rachel Maddow picked up some of Olbermann’s viewers while remaining in her 9pm time slot. Ed Shultz moved to 10pm and his viewership shot up by about 100,000 as a result. While Shultz was able to hold his own in O’Donnell’s old time slot, his vacated 6pm hour suffered. If these trends continue, the end result could be a loss of 200,000 viewers per night, if not more.

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