If its ratings are any indication, there’s a solid shot that Time Warner Cable could kick the channel off the air. As Reuters reported today,
Time Warner Cable Inc's carriage agreement with Current TV stipulates that, if the left-leaning political news network fails to meet a minimum threshold for overall viewers in a given quarter, financial penalties such as Current TV being required to increase marketing and promotion spending on the cable operator's systems are triggered.
If this continues for a second quarter, Time Warner can dump Current on the side of the road. The loss of Keith Olbermann is apparently a big hit for the little cable channel that couldn’t; his replacement, Eliot Spitzer, premiered with a tiny audience. Brad Agate, a senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, commented skeptically, “If Olbermann couldn’t get to where he was at MSNBC on Current, I don’t see how Spitzer can get to where he was at CNN there.”
The sad fact of the matter is that Current TV never had a real market. CNN and MSNBC are already liberal; a third competitor that is even more to the left than MSNBC was superfluous. Right now, Current is in approximately 60 million homes, but Olbermann, its biggest show, was getting less than 200,000 viewers per night. The only reason, apparently, that Time Warner even signed a new deal with Current after the last go-around was because top level executives at Current – possibly even Al Gore himself – called Time Warner executives to beg and plead.
Current TV is moving in precisely the wrong direction with its emphasis on cable distribution. Whereas most of its competitors are looking to move heavily into the online space, Current has always swum against the current, looking to spend big bucks for cable deals. That paid viewer dividends with Olbermann, but couldn’t translate into a real business model. Now they’re paying the price.
The good news: if Gore’s network goes under, he can always blame political, man-made climate change.