Current TV Looks To Olbermann For Buzz In Sleepy Summer Season
It doesn't seem as if Olbermann has been gone that long. It was January when he made his rocky departure from MSNBC. Current TV hopes its marketing effort for Olbermann will get some breathing room now, as opposed to the busier fall and spring TV marketing periods.
What Current TV needs is a better foothold in the cable network universe -- especially competing against the bigger news channels. It hopes to get what "The Daily Show" gave Comedy Central years ago -- a specific presence in a growing network. Current TV doesn't need Olbermann to follow the path Conan O'Brien took -- from an NBC Universal entity to a smaller TV network. O'Brien got major press and viewership in the first weeks on TBS back in November. But ratings have cooled off substantially since.
Current TV has less room for error than TBS, though. The Turner comedy-focused cable network has other content going for it. Current TV will base much of its identity around what Olbermann does.
Perhaps more than other places, Olbermann, as the "chief news officer" will be the recipient of very little in the way of "producer notes," editors, or second-guessing TV executives. For the most part, that pure voice will be valuable to the budding network.
Current TV, the 60-million subscriber cable channel, needs more than an on-air identity, it needs more TV-connected homes -- cable, satellite, telco, or otherwise. Maybe some 70 million to 75 million, which will put it on a more even playing level with the bigger news channels, providing a more solid platform to sell national advertising. Perhaps it has already benefited from Olbermann's arrival, with TV's currently strong upfront advertising market.
Big news periods can deliver high ratings for any channel. Olbermann can be entertaining enough in the lull periods. Current will need all of this.
Even Current TV executives, including co-founder Al Gore, knows what's coming. He told the New York Times: "I expect to hear from people who are unhappy with what Keith is doing," Gore says, "and my response will be: 'We have put Keith on the air for a reason. Deal with it.' "
That reason, that expected unhappiness, is part of the formula. Summer TV is usually stocked with some surprises.