Sunday, February 14, 2016

Current TV and Olbermann: A perfect fit?

I may be one of the few people who didn't say, "huh, what's that?" at the news that Keith Olbermann is going to Current TV. From what I recall writing five years ago, it sounds like a perfect fit.

Current TV and Olbermann: A perfect fit?


I may be one of the few people who didn't say, "huh, what's that?" at the news that Keith Olbermann is going to Current TV. From what I recall writing five years ago about Current, a fledgling channel that couldn't get past the Comcast gatekeepers, it sounds like a perfect fit.

We interrupt this blog post for a brief comic interlude, which should bring a knowing chuckle to those who love Keith and a knowing snort to those who hate him:

The name of the single Current TV listing I mentioned back in November 2005 was "Supernews 9: The Story of Thanksgiving." The synopsis: "Michael Moore travels back in time to the first Thanksgiving to warn of the horrible evils of the white man. Dick Cheney follows Moore back to foil his plan."

I couldn't make that stuff up if I tried. But, in all seriousness, Current is a channel that from the start has pushed the envelope, both in its animated satires and its business model.  The problem is that although it had high-profile backers, such as former Vice President Al Gore and legal-services entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, it didn't have the key thing that media critics said most such ventures need if they want to win carriage on the nation's dominant pay-TV systems: investment from a major media or cable company.

Media reports such as this one say that Current TV now reaches about 60 million households, but typically only via inclusion on a high-priced "digital tier" - which may be why Olbermann wasn't barred from becoming its "chief news officer," or hosting a nightly show, by whatever non-compete agreement he signed with NBC Universal just before it was taken over by Comcast.

On the other hand, Current should be available for streaming via a good broadband connection. So Keith Olbermann, who long advocated for the principle of network neutrality while appearing on cable TV, will now get to be one of net neutrality's test cases.  

Here's my column about Current TV in 2005.

Inquirer Business Columnist
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About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

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