Low ratings could end cable deal for Gore’s Current TV

Al Gore’s Current TV has bigger problems to deal with than a potential lawsuit from fired news anchor Keith Olbermann – namely not getting kicked off Time Warner Cable for low ratings.

According to three sources with knowledge of the situation, Time Warner Cable Inc’s carriage agreement with Current TV stipulates that, if the left-leaning political news network fails to meet a minimum threshold for overall viewers in a given quarter, financial penalties such as Current TV being required to increase marketing and promotion spending on the cable operator’s systems are triggered.

If Current TV misses the audience benchmark in two consecutive quarters, another clause is triggered that would allow Time Warner Cable to drop the channel. The condition was built into the most recent distribution pact between the two parties, which was signed in 2010.

“Time Warner Cable has been flirting with the idea of pulling Current off its systems for some time now,” said one of the sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity.

All of the sources interviewed for this story declined to provide the precise threshold for overall viewers.

Olbermann, the feisty host of the politically tinged talk show “Countdown,” was fired from Current TV last week and replaced with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Current TV, founded seven years ago by Gore, the former U.S. Vice President, and business partner Joel Hyatt, accused Olbermann of breaching his contracts and trying to sabotage the progressive public affairs network. Olbermann denied Current’s allegations and vowed to take legal action.

If it was not for Olbermann’s show, which averaged a total of 177,000 viewers per night, Current TV likely would have missed Time Warner Cable’s viewership benchmark, said one of the sources.

The appointment of Spitzer, another outspoken news commentator, led to speculation among Time Warner Cable executives that Current is courting controversy to attract viewers.

Based on the 47,000 total viewers who tuned into the initial broadcasts of Spitzer’s “Viewpoint,” the source said that “just enough people are tuning in to keep Current over the quota.”

Read more here.

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