What Happened To Current TV and Why – Keith Olberman or Not

Posted on April 4th, by Michael Rosenblum in Journalism. No Comments

He said, she said…

Apparently, Keith Olberman is going to be on Letterman tonight to give ‘his side of the story’.

Apparently, Olberman compares himself to a “$10 million chandelier in need of a suitable house. Current was not suitable…”

Apparently, Kim Kardashian is getting married, or divorced, or opening a restaurant….

Personally, I could not care less what Keith Olberman has to say. Nor could I care what Current TV has to day.  The tragegy of Current TV happened a long itme ago, and it was baked into its DNA.

Current was a schizophrenic animal – half oniine website, half cable TV network.

And it was not alone. Oxygen Media (which I was also involved in at the start) was a similar half and half arrangement – website… TV channel…website…TV channel.

Many conventional broadcasters (and newspapers and magazines) are trying to bridge this same divide – TV channel… online site… TV channel.. online site.

They are, in the end, fundamentally incompatable. They demand totally different architectures. And if you try and put them together you end up compromising one or the other or both, and end up with nothing – or Keith Olberman… at least for a while until he quits.

Television is linear.

There is a “show”, then another “show”… then another “show”.  It’s a performance.  The ‘shows’ have stars. They have to be produced.  They want to be ‘watched’.  That’s TV.

The web is the exact opposite.

It is non-linear. You can jump around. You go where you want to go when you want to go. But the biggest difference is, you are part of what is happening and it’s being created anew all the time in real time.

This is the complete antithesis of television.

Who is the Executive Producer for eBay?  What ‘show’ is on Amazon right now?  When will we get to see ‘The Best of Facebook”?  All of those things are crazy. Not only are they crazy, they would destroy what makes those sites work.  It’s against their DNA. My guess is that the YouTube channels, now so highly vaunted, will utimately fail or morph into something much more web-friendly in it’s architecture. Just as TV can’t go to the web, the web can’t really go to TV.  Otherwise we would have The YouTube Show by now.. but we don’t.

When Current was invented, way back in 2002 in Joel Hyatt’s house in Park City, the web did not yet even accomodate video.  We were just talking about the possibility of the contributors ‘blogging’. Even that was a relatively new concept. So Current was born with a foot on each side of the great digital divide – online site or cable channel?  It could not decide. So what it did was package the nonlinear pieces that the Content Creators submitted as TV shows.  Didn’t work. Bad idea.

Current could have gone the ‘other’ way. That is, open platform.  But they didn’t.  And when they didn’t, all the people we had attracted originally to our new idea of an open video platform migrated to another new site no one had heard of called YouTube, which was created in 2005, 3 years AFTER we started Current.  We COULD have been YouTube (but that is another story).

In any event, the take-away lesson here is that anyone who wants to get into the video online business should ‘forget everything they know or think they know about television’.  (This is the same way we start the bootcamps).  It’s a different animal, and any lingering infection from TV is going to kill you in the end.

Not that I think of Keith Olberman as the Spanish Flu.

Apparently, he’s already a chandelier.

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