Al Gore’s Current TV UK Accuses BSkyB of Forcing it to Shut Down
LONDON – Current UK, the documentary channel launched by Al Gore here in 2006, is blaming BSkyB for the fact that it is now facing closure.
Co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt has launched an astonishing attack on the Rupert Murdoch-backed pay TV platform, accusing it of shutting down the channel in an act politically motivated by News Corp.
“Sky is shutting down an intelligent alternative to mass market programming,” said Joel Hyatt, CEO of Current Media. “By doing so, Sky is once again discriminating in favor of the networks it owns and the points of view News Corporation agrees with.”
However, sources close to the satcaster have rebuffed the comments, saying Sky is simply not renewing its five-year deal because Current TV has performed “very poorly,” and proven to be one of the “least-watched” channels on its platform.
According to U.K. ratings data, the channel’s share of viewing was 0.024 percent in the past year, with its best series averaging 43,000 viewers. It’s average peak-time audience in its best month in 2011 was 4,700 viewers.
Under the terms of the existing, deal, Sky pays a per-customer subscription fee to Current TV for appearing as a pay TV channel on its platform, which reaches over 10 million homes.
Without the revenue from the carriage deal, Current TV says it cannot afford to continue operating.
“BSkyB is withdrawing funding effectively forcing the channel to shut down,” Current TV claimed, adding that its staff, contractors, and program suppliers have been notified that the channel could close as early as mid-March.
BSkyB and Al Gore launched Current TV with a good deal of fanfare five years ago, with Gore and Sky’s then chief executive James Murdoch sharing a platform to proclaim that the user-generated content on the channel would provide a bridge between the internet and television. At the time James Murdoch said he had "high hopes" for a channel that would “bring together the web’s sense of empowerment to television for the first time.”
Current TV, which also came of Sky’s sister venture Sky Italia last year, is looking at other options to stay on air.
BSkyB would not comment on the accusations from Current TV, but in statement Sky’s commercial director Rob Webster said he hoped channel could still enjoy a future as a free-to-air channel saying "we wish them well."
“Despite investing significantly in Current TV since its U.K. launch the in 2006, the channel simply hasn’t made the impact with our customers that we hoped for. That is why we’ve decided not to renew our retail relationship,” the statement continued.