New troubles at Al Gore's Current TV

Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:04am EDT
 
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By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Al Gore, the world's pre-eminent environmentalist, has embarked on his toughest recycling challenge: his own cable channel.

For much of the past year, Current TV has been quietly undergoing an overhaul that will change just about everything but the struggling channel's name. Current declined comment for this story.

It's a revitalization project Gore & Co. embarked on after exhausting a more lucrative possibility: selling the channel. Current's founding partner, Joel Hyatt, spent much of 2009 shopping the network with a price tag that wildly overestimated the company's worth, confirmed sources at several media firms. Current even had extensive sale talks as far back as 2007 with Google, where Gore serves as a senior advisor.

Now the focus has shifted to fixing Current, perhaps with an eye toward a sale down the road. Last July, Hyatt was replaced as CEO by Mark Rosenthal, the former MTV Networks COO who is rebuilding the channel in the traditional mold Gore avowed to avoid, only to suffer the consequences.

Rosenthal has brought in a crew of colleagues from his MTV days including an unlikely ringer: Brian Graden, who masterminded hit series from "South Park" to "The Osbournes," before leaving last year. He's on retainer as a consultant.

Forget bite-sized clips created by anonymous viewers; the new Current will consist of full-length series from the usual suspects in unscripted production who are getting the word that Current is open for business.

For all its troubles, Current heads toward its fifth anniversary in August a profitable venture receiving robust license fees and a worldwide distribution footprint of 70 million. But the network could lose millions of those homes if it fails to secure a new carriage agreement at the end of the year with Time Warner Cable, a key outlet because of its exposure to Madison Avenue.

Either way, advertisers will be hearing more from Current because it will finally make its Nielsen ratings available in the fourth quarter, a risky but necessary move that could expose how few subscribers are actually watching.   Continued...