Keith Olbermann will return to the airwaves on Current TV Monday night, but some of the most avid fans will already recognize his studio. That’s because the opinionated newsman tweeted a photo of the set earlier today, along with the info that he’ll be joined by Michael Moore on his inaugural show. These tweets are just one of the ways Olbermann and Current are using the Internet to drive people to his show and the still fairly unknown cable network.
Current TV, which was co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore and launched in the summer of 2005, has always had a more experimental approach towards online media. The network initially got much of its programming from online contributors, and it was the first to incorporate Twitter messages into a presidential debate in 2008. But these initiatives haven’t helped Current attract larger audiences. Current only gets “tens of thousands of viewers” at any given time, according to the New York Times (s nyt).
Part of that is because it’s not carried on all cable networks, a challenge similar to the one faced by Al-Jazeera. Current is in 60 million households, but Cablevision (s CVC), Suddenlink and Cox are just some of the providers that don’t carry Current. The network now wants to use the momentum of Olbermann and his fans to change this. Olbermann himself has recorded a number of videos asking people to demand their cable provider add Current to its lineup. Current is also using tweets like this one to directly appeal to cable providers on Twitter, and even launched a dedicated Twitter account today to engage subscribers of the cable providers in question online.
Lack of household access isn’t the only challenge Current is facing. “We have our work cut out for us in terms of letting people know where we are,” admits the network’s VP of Communications Jeanne P. Meyer. Even providers that do carry Current generally only make it available high on the channel lineup, far away from the major news networks.
Current and Olbermann want to use Twitter, Facebook and a newly designed show site to drive people to the channel and get the audience engaged online. The network is asking people to submit so-called word storms — one-word associations about current affairs — which it then compiles in infographics, and it’s also using the net to nominate candidates for Olbermann’s popular “worst person in the world” feature.
Olbermann fans will also find clip highlights of each show a few hours after it airs on Currrent’s website, and the network is pushing these clips out to Hulu, iTunes (s AAPL), YouTube (s GOOG) and Xfinity.com (s CMCSK) as well. However, full episodes won’t be available online — something Olbermann blames cable networks for:
Current was forced to do exclusive deals with cable networks on order to get carriage at all, according to Olbermann. At least viewers will have plenty of chances to catch up if they miss an initial airing: