NYT: Olbermann to join … Al Gore’s Current TV
posted at 9:43 pm on February 7, 2011 by Allahpundit
Unconfirmed thus far, but the Times hears buzz. Two words: “equity stake.”
One of the people with knowledge of the plans said Mr. Olbermann would have an equity stake in Current TV. The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized by their employers to comment in advance of the official announcement…
Current TV has set up a presentation with advertisers for Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan to announce its future plans. The channel may be betting on Mr. Olbermann to put it on the cable map. The low-rated five-year-old channel needs the help. Targeting young people, it originally subsisted on YouTube-style submissions and video journalists. More recently it started producing and acquiring traditional television series, like repeats of “This American Life.”…
A move to Current TV would challenge Mr. Olbermann’s fans of his MSNBC show — where he drew about a million viewers a night — to follow him to a channel that is considerably less accessible. Current TV is available in only about 60 million homes, and is usually available only on the digital tier of cable television systems, which requires a separate receiver. MSNBC, which is owned by NBC Universal, is available in 85 million homes and is almost always available as a basic cable entry…
With Current TV, Mr. Olbermann would also gain 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 and other backers.
Why would Olby settle for a rinky-dink operation like Current after being MSNBC’s 8 p.m. go-to guy for years on end? Could be that they outbid for him, but a big payday seems unlikely considering that the network was struggling so badly last year that it had to remake its whole operation. (Besides, who else would be bidding? CNN?) The key, I’d bet, is the equity provision, i.e. control. MSNBC’s overall leftward tilt was partly Olbermann’s doing; presumably he’ll have an even bigger influence over the programming at the “new” Current TV. In fact, per the Reuters story at the last link, the early buzz about Current when Gore got involved in 2004 was that it would be a left-wing alternative to Fox News. Having tried and semi-succeeded to build precisely that at MSNBC, Olby may be thinking of this as a second shot but with even greater leverage. Plus, if even one-tenth of the stories are true about what it’s like to work with him, he’ll need some equity to ensure that he doesn’t eventually get shoved out here too.
So Olby gets his own fiefdom and Gore and the other owners finally, finally get some traction online after flailing for seven years. Win/win! And per the earlier post, Arianna and her AOL/HuffPo leviathan will get some competition for whatever liberal video projects she’s planning to roll out. Meanwhile, on the right … not much going on online. Where are the Koch brothers when you need them?