Two weeks after his abrupt exit from MSNBC, Keith Olbermann has landed at Al Gore’s Current Media. Because of Olbermann’s liberal leanings, Current TV had been rumored as a potential future home, but he had hinted about doing something more entrepreneurial after his abrupt exit from MSNBC on Jan 21.
On Current TV, Olbermann will host an hourlong weekday primetime show, set to launch in late spring. Additionally, he will have an equity stake in Current Media and will serve as Current TV’s Chief News Officer, providing “guidance” to the cable network’s news, commentary and documentary programming. “Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news produced independently of corporate interference,” said Olbermann. He said the new show for Current will be an “improved, amplified and stronger version” of his previous show on MSNBC.
Olbermann’s arrival is sure to raise the profile of struggling Current TV but will be a big step down in visibility for MSNBC’s former flagship host. After five years, Current TV is not even rated yet, which usually means that a network’s owners don’t want people to know how few viewers watch it. It’s primetime viewership is estimated to be 20,000, compared to the average of 1 million who tuned in to Olbermann’s MSNBC show last year. Current TV is available in 60-65 million homes in the U.S. but on the digital tier only. MSNBC, on the other hand, is a basic cable available in analog in 85 million homes. Current started off with a slate of user-generated short-form videos but, after not getting much traction, last summer decided to undergo a format change to full-length unscripted series.
Bringing Olbermann on board would also bring the channel to Gore’s original vision. Word is when he first approached investors about buying the network, then NewsWorld International, 7 years ago, Gore was planning to turn it into a liberal-skewing version of Fox News Channel. Over the past 7 years, that’s what MSNBC has evolved to be.
Current TV brass said they don’t intend to build a political news/commentary network around Olbermann to compete against Fox News, CNN and MSNBC but will unveil their plans for the future of the channel at its upfront presentation tomorrow.