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What Would A Sale Mean for Current TV?

Al Gore's indie net fields offers for sale, explores funding round
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Al Gore and Joel Hyatt's Current TV—the network that hired Keith Olbermann out of his post-MSNBC free-fall, then quickly parted ways with him—is reportedly up for sale. A spokeswoman for the network confirmed that Current has entertained three seperate offers this year and is also seeking a new round of funding to give it a much-needed boost.

The network may also cast around for a joint venture with a larger media partner. With carriage in some 60 million households, Current is a long way from full distribution, but still has enough reach to be a desirable location for a network looking to take off—there's only so much linear real estate on the dial, after all.

Current itself has never quite managed to take off. It experienced a brief surge during the beginning of Olbermann's tenure, but that didn't last long. Last week, the network was ranked 91st on basic cable among 18-49-year-olds. 

Now, with its bankers JP Morgan and The Raine Group, it's seeking the funds to start its next chapter. Current reinvented itself this year as a cable news network, eschewing the user-generated content that had been the show's initial pitch. (That first strategy yielded at least one embarrassing mishap) The programming on Current has garnered acclaim for the documentary series Vanguard, winning a Peabody Award. Still, not enough viewers have tuned in to pay for the kind of programming that Gore and Hyatt seem to want to broadcast.

While a sale might mean a new lease on life for Current, it would also certainly mean yet another major reinvention. In fact, it's hard to come up with a scenario for the network that doesn't involve a major reinvention—new funders will want some assurance that Current is working to turn things around, and a JV partner will want a say in programming.

Both options would seem preferable to a sale, at least considering the high-minded approach to programming Gore and Hyatt have taken, but the offers are likely to be tempting: linear space is hard to come by and cable television is rapidly gaining market share against broadcast.