The debut of Current TV on Monday, 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.
Organisers say about 25% of Current’s programming pods – a term borrowed from Apple Computer’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 roles that sex and drugs play 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.
“This generation wants to be in control of its media … they want personalised media”
Former vice-president Al Gore
During its first day on 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 former president Bill Clinton’s vice-president from 1993 to 2001. “They want personalised media.”
Further emphasising 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 website.
Some analysts hailed Current as a potential turning point in the evolution of TV, especially for its focus on getting individuals to create content for a mass audience.
Some see Current as a potential
“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, specialising in cable advertising.
“You can argue that this is already happening in the internet space with blogging, and pod-casting and chat rooms and email,” 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 Comcast, Time Warner Cable and satellite service DirecTV, controlled by News Corp.