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MSNBC's Olbermann Seeks Big Raise

Olbermann and MSNBC are knocking heads over a new contract. The controversial host of Countdown With Keith Olbermann is said to be seeking "north of $4 million" a year, according to an industry source, to re-up on his pact that comes due in April. That would represent roughly a four-fold increase over his current deal, believed to be in the $1 million-per-year range.

Olbermann is looking for such a big pay raise because Countdown has been on fire, playing a big part in the current audience uptick at the network. In the key 25-54 demo, its ratings are up 25% year-to-date and an astounding 75% so far in the fourth quarter.

But MSNBC brass may have their hands tied on how much they can pony up for Olbermann. MSNBC parent NBC Universal has mandated $750 million worth of budget cuts across all divisions, and this is hardly a politic time to hand out a gargantuan raise. Meanwhile, CNN may have interest.

Still, Olbermann likely wants to stay put. He has been given an incredible amount of creative freedom in this, his second tour of duty at the network. Famously, he left MSNBC at the end of 1998 after clashing with management over being pushed to endlessly cover the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky imbroglio.

An MSNBC spokesman acknowledged that talks were under way but declined to provide details. Both Olbermann and his agent Jean Sage declined comment.