Category Archives: reality TV

Current TV: A case Study of Bad Marketing and Brand Recognition

What current TV can teach us about Marketing and Brand recognition


For those you unaware up until last week Current TV was a left leaning political channel founded in 2002 by Al gore. He along with his partners sold the channel to Aljazeera for an estimated $500 million.

While the former hosts of the programs debated why the channel was a failure their analysis was shallow at best and puerile at the worst.The real reason Current TV failed was because of it’s piss poor marketing.

The Business Model

Before you decide to bring a product to market you must first verify it either solves a problem or provides a delight. The problem with Current TV was what it initially provided was “viewer created content,” or vc^2 as it was referred to. The problem with this is many folds.

First because Current TV wasn’t available on most basic cable or satellite packages, or had to specifically requested, this limited the viewer ship of the network. Moreover because of the proliferation of sites like You tube why would consumers spend money on something they could watch for free?


Much the same way MTV used to show the same videos ad nauseum in its early days, so to did Current TV. Its handful of vc^2 segments repeated around the clock.

This wouldn’t have been as bad if what they showed had a consist theme. But each segmented varied in both length and content so a viewer never knew quite what they were watching or for how long.

Consumers crave fresh content but also have expectations about quality and consistency. The problem with Current TV was it didn’t give viewers much of either. Again because these were programs created by viewers they ranged from terrible to terrific with no metric to determine if you should waste your time watching.

Branding and Messaging

After this business model fail Current TV tried to re-brand itself as a liberal political and news channel. However the same issues carried over. While they dropped all but the most professional viewer created programs like Vanguard or The Young Turks they still had tons of time to fill.

The solution they came up with was to fill it up documentaries and reality TV shows interspersed with political shows like View Point, The War room, etc. The problem with this was a disconnect in messaging it caused.

You can’t have a station dedicated to reporting the news and then show a documentary on how Tupac and Biggie’s murders were part of a conspiracy. Nor can you show propaganda pieces like Michael Moore’s movies and expect to be taken serious as a credible and objective source of journalism.

Enter Aljazeera

Another chapter in the Current TV saga has just started. Aljazeera’s acquisition of the station caused backlashes before it even started airing programs as the new Aljazeera America.

Many cable and satellite providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable refuse to offer the station. And of those that carry the channel sponsors have threatened to pull their ads in protest.


While it yet remains to be seen if American audiences will embrace the new network, one thing I can say for sure is: if they fail to address the perceived issues with their brand identity and messaging, they will have that much more trouble winning the consumer base over.