Liberal crusader Keith Olbermann abruptly and mysteriously left his top-rated MSNBC show Countdown only weeks ago, but he just announced that he's already found a new home: Current TV. Olbermann will serve as Current's chief news officer, get an equity stake in Current Media, and host a nightly news and commentary show beginning in the spring.
If you're not familiar with Current's current programming, you are not alone. Founded five years ago, it's the digitally-minded, liberal-leaning, youth-oriented brainchild of former Vice President Al Gore. Though it's remained relatively obscure in the cable universe, Current has garnered attention for its efforts to solicit news and advertising from viewers and for its quirky programming. Tune in, and you can help develop the plot for a show about a bar that hurtles through time and space or watch people hunt, kill, butcher, cook, and eat their meat. Quirky programming has built a following, but it has suffered through a string of layoffs during the recession and does not have the ratings of the cable news standbys like Fox News, CNN and Olbermann's former home, MSNBC. So, what does the move mean for Current?
- Olbermann Could Raise Current's Profile, But It's Tricky, assert Bill Carter and Brian Stelter at The New York Times. They point out that Current TV is available in only 60 million homes while MSNBC--normally available with basic cable--is available in 85 million homes. The one million viewers of Olbermann's MSNBC show might find it difficult to follow him to "a channel that is considerably less accessible," they say.
- Current Could Become the Liberal Foil to Fox News, argues Hot Air's Allahpundit. Olbermann, he notes, is credited with helping burnish MSNBC's liberal identity and Current, in its early days, was cast as 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."
- It Might Also Double Down on Digital, states Andrew Wallenstein at PaidContent. If Current features Olbermann's work both on TV and online, he contends, "the network can make good on its long-aborted identity as a robust internet presence" and expand its reach in the U.S.