By DAVID BAUDER
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 15, 2007; 8:44 PM
NEW YORK -- Much to Bill O'Reilly's annoyance, Keith Olbermann will be a two-term news host on MSNBC. At least. NBC News announced Thursday that Olbermann had agreed to four more years at the MSNBC prime-time show "Countdown." He began the show in 2003, and his contract was due to expire in March.
Besides feuding with Fox News Channel's O'Reilly, Olbermann has become a liberal hero. He has seen his ratings increase since launching a series of anti-President Bush commentaries late last summer.
Olbermann's viewership in January was up 85 percent over January 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research. He's still in O'Reilly's shadow: the Fox show has averaged 2.4 million viewers so far this year while Olbermann, in the same time slot, has averaged 672,000.
"Countdown" has "put MSNBC back on the map," said NBC News President Steve Capus. "It is as creative a broadcast as there is going today."
Despite a job-jumping history, Olbermann said there wasn't much doubt he would continue.
"There wasn't a lot more deciding for me to do except what to wear as I was coming over here today," he said.
Olbermann will also contribute occasional essays to "NBC Nightly News" and there will be two prime-time "Countdown" specials a year on NBC, a division of NBC Universal, Capus said.
The "Nightly News" contributions will not be political commentaries, Capus said.
The news chief also said he saw no problem giving a more prominent role on NBC News to someone with clearly stated political opinions. Olbermann and Chris Matthews anchored MSNBC's coverage of the midterm elections last November.
"I think the viewers are sophisticated enough to welcome all viewpoints," he said.