Stunning his Countdown audience, Keith Olbermann announced at the very end of his show tonight that this would be the last edition of Countdown. He gave no explanation but thanked his audience.

Within minutes MSNBC released a statement indicating that it was not renewing Keith’s contract.

MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

The new evening lineup would be:

6:00 p.m. Cenk (just “filling in”?)
7:00 p.m. Hardball
8:00 p.m. Larry O’Donnell
9:00 p.m. Rachel Maddow
10:00 p.m. Ed Show

We’ll add details as we get them. But the first question has to be: Is this the first action by cable conglomerate Comcast, after the FCC and Justice Department approved their takeover of NBC, in deciding what we see on television? Gosh, who coulda predicted?

Update: from the NYT coverage, “NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast.” Yeah, that’s about what I’d expect Comcast to tell NBC to say.

Update II, Saturday a.m.: Statement from Comcast (h/t Howie at DownWithTyranny):

“Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties including MSNBC. We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.”

More here and here on the implications of the Comcast takeover. Al Franken’s Senate speech on Comcast and internet neutrality.