Roughly 90 days into Mark Roshenthal’s tenure as CEO of Current Media, the company’s cable network is dropping short-form programming and some of its in-house originals in favor of more traditional show lengths and acquisitions. Three shows have been canceled (Current Tonight, Current Takeover and Current Exposed) — as have 80 jobs. Current Media COO Joanna Drake Earl insists the move isn’t about cutting costs, telling paidContent: “It’s less about saving money. It’s about making sure we’re investing in the right places.” Earl, who was the first exec to join Curren, said she expects the amount Current spends on programming to increase next year.
Current cut 60 jobs late last year, but said then it would be hiring another 30. No similar promise this time although Earl said the company will be adding executives in affiliate relations and program development, among other areas. The post-cut staff numbers about 300. She also said the network is committed to its in-house programming of full-length shows like infoMania and The Rotten Tomatoes Show.
This move is really about making Current TV look more like a cable network. The quirky, shorter pieces that made Current stand out in the 30-minute sea are being replaced by “proven 30-60 minute formats.” Earl admits the cable network, now available in more than 59 million households globally, will look more conventional but says the company remains committed to its original interactive, multiscreen strategy. “The short-form programming strategy has been somewhat confusing on the television screen,” she said, but it won’t disappear from online or mobile. The TV network will no longer provide a direct pipeline for that format but the longer shows can be broken into “snacks.” Earl also said Current is committing to producing more content specifically for the web.
In retrospect, Rosenthal’s hiring was a sign that the original cable format — Earl called it ADD programming — dreamed up by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, who remain chairman and vice-chairman respectively, was on its way out. The MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) and ad industry veteran may be able to improve Current TV viewing by using proven time lengths, as long as he remembers the actual content matters more than the length.