Best Practices: Current TV Learns to Adapt its Strategy

Posted by Tim Fernholz



Current TV, a GOOD Company Finalist, made some major moves this past summer, shifting its focus from user-created content to editorial by hiring Keith Olbermann, the former MSNBC host, to lead its primetime line-up, and David Bohrman, a widely-respected cable news executive, as president of the company. GOOD talked to Joel Hyatt, the company's co-founder and CEO, about how Current stayed flexible to find a new strategy and execute its mission.

"We’re very proud of the thought leadership we have provided to the media industry since [Former Vice President] Al Gore and I founded Current, making user-generated content ubiquitous and pervasive across all networks, sharing with viewers and users so that they can be part of the creation of the content they consume. That was viewed as radical and crazy. This was before YouTube, this was before you ever saw an iReport on CNN, and what has transpired is every media company in the world is looking to engage their users in the creation of the content.

What entrepreneurs tend to know is that you have to adapt, you have to be flexible, you have to be conscious about learning, what is working, what isn’t working. We want to be at the leading edge of innovation, as to the different platforms on which people receive their content and the different ways we can continue to empower our audience.

Our early vision was to share the power of the platform with our viewers and let them create the content on the TV network. One of the things we learned: the internet is a better platform for that than television is. There simply was not enough compelling content to build a large audience that came from user-generated content, and we stubbornly stuck to that vision and all that it represented. Over time, we knew we had set out to have an impact, to influence a conversation, and you can’t have that no matter how good the content is if you don’t have a large audience watching. We did shift to a programming strategy that will ensure us a large audience and still provide us with opportunities both to be innovative and engage users in the conversation.

Our strategic path is now very clear. We are moving aggressively into the political commentary and news analysis space with Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN. We believe there is an enormous opportunity to do something different, innovative, and important. We have our anchor hit show with Keith Olbermann, which has made a huge difference from our brand. We’re aggressively building out the programming line-up, soon there will be shows before Keith and after him. From June 20, when Keith launched, to August 7, when we had Nielsen run a custom report for us, of those people who could choose at the 8 o'clock hour, more people are watching Current and not CNN."

Photo via (cc) Flickr User jdlasica