Keith Olbermann Joins Current TV…

The New York Times Brian Stelter and Bill Carter write about today’s announcement that Keith Olbermann is joining Current TV…

Mr. Olbermann will have an equity stake in the company, and he will also have a management role. As the chief news officer, he will develop new programs and provide editorial guidance to the channel’s journalists.

“We are counting down the days to Keith Olbermann’s return to television,” Current’s chief executive, Mark Rosenthal, said on the conference call. But he did not announce a premiere date or a time slot for the program.

With Current TV, Mr. Olbermann gains a measure of independence. Unlike most cable channels, including MSNBC, which are owned by large media companies, Current is privately and independently owned by Mr. Gore, the former vice president, and other backers.

There’s a lot riding on Olbermann with Current TV and its backers. This paragraph really illustrates that…

Parties to the deal indicated it held out the promise of substantial wealth if the network shows significant growth.

Mr. Hyatt predicted that would eventuate. He said that cable systems that do not yet carry Current TV — it is only available in 60 million homes, a far cry from MSNBC’s 95 million — and those that have it relegated to distant channel positions in their digital lineup would be “hard pressed” not to improve the channel’s status “when we have Keith Olbermann in our prime time.”

Color me skeptical but Current is hoping for something that likely is not in the cards; definitely not in the short term, and probably not in the medium term either. Current TV has things going against it that Keith Olbermann’s presence alone will likely not be able to overcome. Increasing subscriber base for just one new hire is a tall order indeed. Don Imus never was able to put RFD-TV on the map and, so far, hasn’t been able to put FBN on the map either. It will take more than just Olbermann to get carriers to add Current TV. Current doesn’t have a corporate media empire behind it, an empire which can threaten operators with retalliation in the form of denial of other popular channels – as NBC Universal can do with MSNBC and News Corp. can do with FBN.

And channel placement improvement? That’s even harder. If NBC Universal and all its might couldn’t stop Comcast from moving established MSNBC to digital only tiers in some parts of the country a few years ago, what chance does Current TV have of moving its placement based solely on the hiring of one person?

Current is going to need more to convince already cramped operators trying to keep costs down that it is in their interest to add the channel, or move the channel, based solely on Olbermann. This is why Current’s upfront tomorrow will be very interesting. Olbermann’s hire may be part of a channel reboot.

10 Responses to “Keith Olbermann Joins Current TV…”

  1. Olbermann’s hire may be part of a channel reboot.

    It certainly needs one. My perusal of its program listings today was bewildering.

  2. whitneymuse Says:

    In Retrospect, Keith really did it to himself this time. At least he’ll be surrounded by the global warming channel, and they are more than likely to be a loyal audience.

    Good choice, Keith.

  3. It’s climate change. It’s real.

  4. Josh Kalb Says:

    I don’t think it matters much how many subscribers Current TV has. 60 million isn’t bad for a channel no one has ever heard of or watched before.

    If they want to get broader carriage, hiring one man isn’t going to do it.

  5. If he raises their profile, it’s to his credit. If he doesn’t, it’s hard to see how it hurts him.

  6. Current TV really has only one A-list show; Vanguard; so there is a lot of room to grow; and one of the things that Olbermann is very good at is evaluating talent. Maddow & O’Donnell are both where they are today largely because KO pushed for there hiring.

    I expect he will have a very big say; possibly veto power; over how the networks news division operates. If he makes the right choices he can increase the network viewership considerably.

    On the flip side the network that has the most to lose is MSNBC as his audience will come out of theirs. Roger Ailes will be doing a jig as he sees his competition splinter.

    For myself I don’t get the network so I won’t be watching at least not on TV.

  7. If he can create a legitimate alternative to MSNBC that actually promotes liberal values full time, more power to him. If it’s more of the “let’s spend half the show repeating what Fox says” hoo ha that he poineered at MSNBC..forget it.

  8. ^I expect he may spend more time going after real or perceived enemies at MSNBC/NBC than he does the FNC crowd. Scarborough, Brokaw & Mitchell etc. may have burning ears.

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