July 07, 2011 8:27am PT by AdWeek
Current TV CEO Defends Keith Olbermann's Ratings Dip
Current TV's CEO, Mark Rosenthal, says he isn't too worried about the ratings drop-off in the second week of Keith Olbermann's new show. Countdown saw an average viewership of 93,000 in the key 25-54 demo demo during the week of June 27th—a decline of 29 percent in that age group from the week before. Olbermann's show saw a total audience drop of 28.5 percent in that period.
"Numbers are going to go up and they're going to go down," Rosenthal said of the decline. "It's a marathon for us. And the show will build over time as more and more people continue to find Current, or continue to demand Current and cable operators continue to add it." Current is confident enough in Olbermann's viewership that Rosenthal says the network is making ratings guarantees to ad buyers.
Still, Rosenthal said that any discussion of Current's ratings thus far has to take into consideration the network's size relative to its competition. "We're only in about 60 million Nielsen homes," he said. "The competition is in 95 to 105 million homes... any cable network that's been around for twenty years or so is in that many homes. And we're only six years old. I think people forget that when they compare us to other networks...We're not at distribution parity with the MSNBCs and virtually any other cable network out there."
This last point is one that Olbermann himself has sounded off on via his Twitter, where he's responded to viewers' complaints about their inability to access Current by encouraging them to switch providers if their demands aren't met. "If enough people threaten to bolt to Verizon FIOS, you bet they will [start carrying Current TV]," he tweeted earlier this week.
The mere fact that so much attention is being paid to Current's ratings these days is a good indication of how far the network has come since hiring Olbermann last February ("Olbermann is rocket fuel for Current," Rosenthal says). But in order to court viewers, the network will have to start building up a primetime lineup beyond Olbermann—something Current hasn't done yet. In late June, Olbermann acknowledged that Current is planning a companion commentary show to follow Countdown in the 9 p.m. slot. Nothing more was said on the subject, and Rosenthal says he's still not prepared to discuss details. "[Current will divulge more] as soon as we're ready," he said.