Current TV is rounding out its prime-time slate with the announcement that former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm will host a new show called The War Room With Jennifer Granholm. The program, set to premiere this January, will follow Keith Olbermann’s Countdown in the 9 p.m. time slot.
“The opportunity to . . . provide the background and the inside view that I think I can shed on the election is a real treat for me, and I hope it will be a real treat for the viewers as well," Granholm said during a conference call announcing the new show.
Granholm’s hire at Current comes less than a month after the network brought on former MSNBC host Cenk Uygur to anchor a 7 p.m. show called The Young Turks—and about four months after Countdown premiered on Current in June. The hope, according to network executives, is that Current will have close to a full day of programming by the height of the election season—though executives stopped short of offering a specific time line for when a daytime lineup would be up and running. “We have to catch the election wave,” said Current president David Bohrman. “We can’t wait for a year and a half to slowly build our [daytime] schedule . . . We’ll do that as quickly as we can without jeopardizing what we’re doing in prime time.”
Granholm’s appointment also comes on the heels of a major shakeup at the network this summer, as Current seeks to transform itself into a cable news and commentary channel and chief competitor to MSNBC. In July, Current’s former CEO, Mark Rosenthal, whose background was not in news but in entertainment television, stepped down, leaving Joel Hyatt to assume the sole CEO responsibility himself.
In August, cable news veteran Bohrman was hired away from CNN to serve as Current’s president, and a little over a month later, Shelley Lewis was appointed executive vice president in charge of programming (Lewis was a co-creator of Air America Radio and an executive producer on the PBS news magazine Need to Know). On the conference call this afternoon, Current executives said they think there’s ample room in the cable ecosystem for an additional news network.
“When you think of other genres of media, there’s usually a far larger number of competitors than in cable television news,” Hyatt said. “All three of those [other cable news networks] have particular characteristics about them that we believe will differ from the . . . approach we’re going to bring.”
One of the ways Current programming will be different, say executives, is that the on-air conversation will be less combative than what Current higher-ups say is featured on the other networks. “It’s not going to be Crossfire with people sniping at each other every 30 seconds; we want to have in-depth intelligent discussions” said Bohrman. “It’s not going to be people battling over their talking points on the air.”
Current executives also said that Al Gore—who has already been making infrequent appearances on Olbermann’s Countdown—will appear as a commentator on other Current shows as well. “I’m not going to be a regular feature on the network,” Gore said. “But at key events . . . I look forward to appearing from time to time.”