Current, the first ‘social TV network,’ sells to Al Jazeera

By Alex Weprin 

Current TV, which launched with a user-generated social strategy that was way ahead of its time, has been sold to Al Jazeera. The network, co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore and his business partner Joel Hyatt, has for the last year and a half been a liberal commentary network, but before that had some very innovative approaches to programming.

When the network launched in 2005, the plan was to compete with legacy channels like CNN by having a focus on user-submitted content. Before YouTube caught on, and well before anyone had even dreamed of products like CNN’s iReport, Current solicited (and received) news reports, photos and short films from aspiring journalists and television personalities.

“Current TV is the first TV network created by, for, and with a young adult audience, enlisting its audience as creative partners,” the network said in a pitch to journalists back in October 2006. The same pitch noted that a fuill 30% of the network’s programming was created by viewers.

At a cocktail party for the “24 Hours of Reality” TV project in late 2011, Gore told this reporter that social content was in Current’s DNA. ” We were YouTube before YouTube,” he said, citing the network’s strong selection of user-generated video content.

The network began to move away from user-submitted content that same year, and with the hiring of Keith Olbermann, it effectively abandoned it altogether.

With Al Jazeera’s purchase, the network has a new beginning, but it is worth remembering that when it launched, Current TV was ahead of its time. The first truly “social” TV network.