The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Next Big Thing? Al Gore 'Blogerizes' TV

Gore launches youth-oriented TV network, Current - Yahoo! News. By Steve Gorman (Reuters)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore launched his long-awaited cable network, Current TV, on Monday with short, fast-paced programs, or "pods," for Internet-savvy viewers 18 to 34 years old.

The debut of Current, which reaches 20 million homes nationwide, came more than a year after Gore led an investor group in buying the cable channel Newsworld International for an undisclosed sum from Vivendi Universal .

Billed by Gore as a TV outlet that encourages a "two-way conversation" with its audience, the network offers professionally produced segments and viewer-produced videos running from a few seconds to 15 minutes in length.

Organizers say about 25 percent of Current's programming "pods" -- a term borrowed from Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod portable digital music player -- consist of homemade pieces dubbed viewer contributed content, or "VC Squared."

Initial contributions included stories about thrill-seekers who leap off cliffs with parachutes and the role that sex and drugs plays in the private lives of Iranians.

The network also featured segments on fashion, dating, travel, entertainment and news, anchored every half hour with a short spot highlighting trends gleaned from leading Web searches conducted on Google Inc.'s popular Internet portal.


During its first day on the air, the network made repeated promotional pitches to young adults who constitute the mainstay of video games and other digital media and have proven increasingly elusive to traditional broadcast and cable programmers.

"If you ever thought, 'TV really sucks ... or I could make a better show than that,' then you came to the right place," on-air host Shauntay Hinton told viewers.

At a gathering of television critics last month, the 57-year-old Gore said Current was "inviting this new generation empowered by digital tools -- of small and good cameras and laptop editing systems -- to actually make television."

"This generation wants to be in control of its media," said Gore, who served as President Bill Clinton's vice president from 1993 to 2001. "They want personalized media."

Further emphasizing viewer control over its programming, Current regulates how often it repeats individual pieces on the air according to audience feedback, as registered on the network's Web site (

Some analysts hailed Current as a potential turning point in the evolution of TV, especially for its focus in getting individuals to create content for a mass audience.

"Years from now, people will look back, and they're going to ask themselves what was the transition point, and this will stand out," said John Barker, president of New York-based DZP Marketing Communications, specializing in cable advertising.

"You can argue that this is already happening in the Internet space with blogging, and pod-casting and chat rooms and e-mail," he said. "But what you don't have is the big daddy of mass media, television, transitioning to this type of model."

Current reaches cable TV subscribers through carriage deals with Compacts, Time Warner Cable and satellite service DirecTV, controlled by News Corp. .

This project will either crash and burn miserably, as most of the MSM that have always laughed at Gore want, or it is the next big thing in media -- and Gore will in fact be able to claim he invented something without getting pounced on -- finally. My tendency is to be skeptical. But the innovative design of this thing -- it's not Fox-Left -- and its embrace of the two way nature of emerging technologies suggests that by targeting the youth segment, this network may in fact be onto the next big thing.


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