Current TV Continues Its Slide

by Patrick Brennan

Al Gore’s network, Current TV, new home of Keith Olbermann, is being dropped from Britain’s biggest pay-TV service, BSkyB. The Guardian reports:

The satellite broadcaster took a “commercial decision” to let go of the news and documentary channel from its subscription service, which launched in a blaze of publicity in 2007 but has since struggled for ratings. The decision comes months after Current TV’s Italian network was dropped by Murdoch’s Sky Italia, prompting accusations from the channel that it was taken off air for political reasons.

The bulk of the liberal TV station’s funding had come from its pay-TV deal with Sky – understood to be worth several million pounds a year – and the channel’s 23 staff were warned at a meeting on Wednesday morning that its future is bleak.

It also shows original first-run series such as 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die, fronted by Morgan Spurlock, and will broadcast the television premiere of award-winning film documentary Shed Your Tears and Walk Away on 5 February.

Joel Hyatt, chief executive of parent company Current Media and co-founder of the channel with Gore, said: “Sky is shutting down an intelligent alternative to mass market programming.” He added: “By doing so, Sky is once again discriminating in favour of the networks it owns and the points of view News Corporation agrees with.”

Current TV’s audience in Sky homes has more than doubled in the past 12 months – but its rating are poor. Its average peaktime audience in November last year, of 4,700 viewers, was its highest yet.

So, yes, Current TV is being cut not because Rupert Murdoch doesn’t like “intelligent alternatives” to conservative News Corp networks, but because, as Jonah noted the other night, “The downside of watching Current is that when I turn to it, its ratings increase 20 percent.” Shed your tears and walk away, indeed.

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