Air America is old news, but yesterday we learned that Current TV was sold to Al Jazeera, as the Qatar-owned news network seeks greater U.S. penetration. Why they think Current's shitty channel access is attractive beats me. They must be getting a hell of a cheap price.
Problem with Current was that its CEO, Joel Hyatt (from Hyatt Legal Services, also known as the asshole who fired an attorney with AIDS which became the movie Philadelphia), never cared about building a popular network. You could see this with their lack of promotion, with their signing of shitty distribution deals that prohibited them from posting anything of real value on the web, and from their ridiculous firing of their marquee star—Keith Olbermann. A network that had built up an audience of around a quarter million (and growing as people found the hard-to-find network) suddenly saw its prime-time audience plummet to the 40K's with replacement Elliot Spitzer. So Olbermann can be mercurial. So what? It wasn't as if his complaints weren't valid—from shitty and non-improving production values, to lack of web access (his MSNBC special notes were seen by millions online), to lack of promotion.
But Hyatt didn't give a damn because his business wasn't selling advertising. It was collecting carriage fees from cable operators. Why did cable operators pay carriage fees to Current? Beats the crap out of me. They're not very smart either, apparently, though those fees were one of the reasons Current wasn't allowed to post their content online. (And by the way, cable companies are trying to upend that idiotic system, which is why Time Warner Cable took the opportunity to drop Current after the sale. It didn't want to keep paying those carriage fees for programming no one watched or cared about.)
So it was a subscription business, not a ratings one. And if your motivation isn't to increase ratings ... what's the point? You fire your one proven audience draw, you sign contracts that exclude you from the one medium that could promote you for free, and you refuse to advertise your existence. Is it any wonder it failed? That's why I dramatically scaled back my appearances on the network after Olbermann's departure, going from 50 appearances in 2011 to maybe three in 2012. What was the point? I had better things to do with my time.
So yet another "liberal" media operation collapses due to mismanagement, and yet again people will say that progressive media won't work. But MSNBC's prime-time lineup argues otherwise. Too bad no one has made that kind of investment for a truly 100 percent top-to-bottom progressive effort. There's space for it.