Given recent news that Al Gore personally recruited Keith Olbermann to join Current TV as its "Chief News Officer" (I don't know either), readers may be wondering: what value could the former vice presiodent have possibly seen in Olbermann?
Though we're not expecting confirmation from Current TV, here's one possibility: like Olbermann, Gore is a routine violator of Godwin's Law. Perhaps the former MSNBC host's penchant for Nazi comparisons impressed a man who, though he's an expert at comparing people with whom he disagrees to genocidal fascists, can't hold a candle to Olbermann's knee-jerk Nazi references.
VH-1 comedian Don Jamieson on Tuesday took some humorous swipes at Keith Olbermann.
Appearing on HLN's "Joy Behar" show, Jamieson commented that Al Gore's Current TV was "harder to find than Osama bin Laden," and moments later asked, "You’re going to go from TV to the Internet? What is [Keith Olbermann] sleeping his way to the bottom?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Andrew Wallenstein at The Hollywood Reporter suggests more than Al Gore's marriage is crumbling. Gore's cable channel Current TV is facing a dramatic makeover with an injection of MTV executives. Wallenstein tried to sugarcoat the inconvenient truths:
For all the brilliance he has displayed grasping the meteorological dynamics governing the globe, Gore has miscalculated those of a slightly less complex world: the TV business. The radical ambitions he brought to the environment didn't pan out the same way in cable; the television will not be revolutionized.
Gore tried to sell off Current to his Google pals for half a billion dollars, but that didn't take. So they're taking the content away from small-d democracy and toward the persistent formula of other youth-culture channels, loaded with young-skewing documentaries and "reality" TV:
Well, they held out as long as the could. But now that the presidential election is over, layoffs in the news business have begun.
Newsosaur predicted as much on the Sunday before the election, and pointed to a major reason:
Public confidence in the mainstream media has been eroding for at least a decade.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that only 19% of respondents trusted their local newspapers in 2006, as compared with 29% in 1998. In the same period, trust in national newspapers slid to 21% from 32%, broadcast news fell to 22% from 27% and cable news slipped to 25% from 37%. Confidence in the National Enquirer, however, doubled to 6%.
Job losses announced at Time Inc., which went through a significant shrinkage just two years ago, and Al Gore's Current Media are among the first in what will almost certainly be a long line of similar reports in the coming months.
Here, from Ad Week, is a capsule of what's going down at Time:
Just as last week's Dixie Chicks (ahem, with balls) cover story in Time magazine was expanding on an earlier plug in their Time 100 issue, in this week's editions, reporter Karen Tumulty expands on her earlier "movie star" plug for Al Gore. The headline for this four-page package is "Lights, Camera, Al Gore!" (Yes, an exclamation point.) And: "The ex-president is enjoying an unlikely heyday as a movie star. All that buzz invites the question: Will he audition again for President?"
A "movie star"? May we remind Time's headline writers that the Gore movie debuted in just four theaters and grossed $281,330? (Nice pre-screen average, but c'mon, it's a political event.) May we remind Time that almost no one is going to say "hey, kids, get your popcorn, it's time to watch the Al Gore global warming slide show"? By this standard, we could look up the weekend box-office charts and claim Michael J. Pagan was a "movie star."
Ex-ABCer Josh Gerstein reports in the New York Sun on the struggles of Al Gore's cable channel, named Current TV. We not only learn it's not widespread enough to be studied for ratings, but that it has an unsurprising liberal bias, a potentially Tipper-shocking appetite for raunch, and a legal problem: those greedheads at Minnesota Public Radio are taking them to court over the "Current" name. First, Gerstein's report on the liberal bias:
The network's staff is clearly wary about the channel being perceived as political. Mr. Gore is not an on-air presence. According to a question-and-answer posting on the channel's Web site, it is "absolutely not" a requirement that videos present a Democratic Party viewpoint.
Are overtly liberal media ventures like Air America or Al Gore's Current TV doomed to failure? Yes, according to NBC Universal president Bob Wright.
The media exec ventured this opinion during an interview with his MSNBC employee Tucker Carlson at a media symposium. Broadcasting & Cable gives this account:
Carlson made a suggestion: Why not start a channel that overtly caters to liberals? "There's tons of liberals out there," Carlson said.
Going after a lefty audience would be futile, Wright said. "For some strange, probably genetic, reasons"—we're pretty sure that was a joke—"they don't listen to a lot of radio and they don't watch a lot of television."
Another disincentive: Despite all the media attention given to cable-news programming—from Bill O'Reilly's histrionics on Fox to Anderson Cooper's exhibitionistic empathy at CNN—American viewers are not all that interested. Wright pointed out that the cable-news networks combined draw fewer unique viewers all night long than a single half-hour of NBC Nightly News.
"You'd think it would be 25 million people. It's smaller than that, it's 5 million-6 million," Wright said. "It's not a very large group."
Unsaid by Wright was that programs hosted by outspoken and overtly liberal talking heads are going after a market that's already saturated with shows hosted by people who won't admit they're liberal.