Current TV cable deal in jeopardy over low ratings

By David Ferguson
Thursday, April 5, 2012 11:06 EDT
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Current TV, the progressive public affairs network founded by former Vice President Al Gore and business partner Joel Hyatt, is in crisis and may lose an important cable deal over low ratings, according to an article posted by the news agency Reuters.

In the wake of firing of its most popular host, the infamously volatile Keith Olbermann, the network faces serious questions about its long term viability. Time Warner Cable, one of the major cable providers that carries the network, has benchmarks in place for the network’s overall performance.

According to contractual stipulations, if Current fails to meet a minimum number of quarterly viewers, the network faces financial penalties in the next quarter. If Current TV fails to meet the minimum threshold of viewers for two quarters running, Time Warner has the option of dropping it.

Of the 60,000 homes currently receiving Current TV as part of their cable packages, 12,000 are subscribers to Time Warner, a fifth of Current TV’s total reach. The decision could prove to be a mortal blow to the network, which has struggled to find its audience since its inception in 2005.

In the wake of Olbermann’s high-profile, acrimonious departure, the network has raised eyebrows by awarding his time slot to former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, a controversial figure in his own right, was let go by CNN after his show “In the Arena” performed dismally in the ratings.

Early signs are not promising, with ratings falling 74 percent for the time slot with Spitzer as opposed to Olbermann.

However, the 47,000 viewers who did turn in for Spitzer’s program, “Viewpoint,” may be enough to keep Current TV on the air for now, reports Reuters. A source reported that Current’s present audience is just over the quota necessary to keep it from triggering the punitive clauses in its Time Warner contract.

No parties interviewed by Reuters were willing to specify the exact numbers of viewers necessary to meet Time Warner’s quota to keep Current TV. A network representative told the news agency, “We are fully in compliance with our Time Warner Cable contract and all indications show that even with Keith leaving we will continue to be in compliance.”

Time Warner Cable declined to comment on the matter.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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