Olbermann Goes Over an Hour on Current to Take on MSNBC, But Carriage Deals Thwart Online Video Plan

By Alex Weprin 

Last night on his newly-launched “Countdown” on Current TV, Keith Olbermann took the opportunity to bleed over into the 9 PM hour during an interview with Markos Moulitsas. As The Huffington Post spotted, Olbermann took to Twitter to note that he and MSNBC are now effectively in competition, and keeping viewers on Current for a few extra minutes is fair game, just as having Rachel Maddow on the end of Lawrence O’Donnell’s show is fair game.

Whether the extra few minutes will make any difference is up to debate. Joe Flint at the LA Times argues that all it will do is piss off viewers.

Those few extra minutes also revealed a potential problem for “Countdown.” Because Current is a small, independently-owned cable channel, the carriage deals it has with cable and satellite distributors are not as forgiving as the larger networks like MSNBC or CNN.


For many viewers, the highlight of night one of “Countdown” may have been the Moulitsas interview, which focused on his banishment from MSNBC, and his fracas with Joe Scarborough. Unfortunately, that interview is not available online, and because the show went over an hour, viewers that DVRed the episode missed the end of the segment.

On Twitter, Olbermann explained that Current’s carriage deals effectively restrict what the network can offer online:

“[S]adly this is the cable carriers’ doings. They can restrict how much we younger nets put online,” Olbermann tweeted, adding “Online replays: young cable networks like ours are hamstrung by your cable carriers about how much we can put on web. Need you to yell at ’em”

In other words, while MSNBC can put just about every segment online, Current cannot. For a show that will need web buzz to remain part of the political conversation, that is not a small problem.

Update: A tipster wrote us to note that up until roughly a year ago, Current put nearly all of its programming online, and in full. This is true. However, Current has expanded its distribution and renegotiated carriage deals with carriers since that time. It is reasonable to expect that a condition of one or more of those deals was that Current limit the content it puts online.