Al Gore and Joel Hyatt Unveil Current ...
Set to Launch August 1, Independent Venture Will Be First National Television
Network Created For, By and With an 18-34 Year-Old Audience;
Google Zeitgeist Data Used to Produce News Feature, 'Google Current'
SAN FRANCISCO, April 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Offering a glimpse of the independent network first announced at last year's National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention, former Vice President Al Gore and entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, joined by executives and on-air talent, revealed this morning that the name of the new venture, formerly known as INdTV, will be Current. The unveiling of the much-anticipated network's positioning, logo and prototype programming reel took place at a press conference in Current's San Francisco headquarters during NCTA '05. The first national network created by, for and with an 18-34 year-old audience, Current will offer 24 hours of programming in a unique, short-form content format when it premieres August 1. Current will invite audiences to move beyond their roles as viewers to become active collaborators, encouraging them to help shape the network's content and fulfill its mission -- to serve as a TV platform where the voices of young adults can be heard. "The Internet opened a floodgate for young people whose passions are finally being heard, but TV hasn't followed suit. Young adults have a powerful voice, but you can't hear that voice on television ... yet," said Gore, who serves as the network's chairman of the board. "We intend to change that with Current, giving those who crave the empowerment of the Web the same opportunity for expression on television. We want to transform the television medium itself, giving a national platform to those who are hungry to help create the TV they want to watch." The participatory model of Current marks a giant leap in seven decades of television. "Until now, the notion of viewer participation has been limited to sending a tape to 'America's Funniest Home Videos,' calling an interview show, taking part in an instant poll, or voting someone off an island," added Gore. "We're creating a powerful new brand of television that doesn't treat audiences as merely viewers, but as collaborators." Promising a slate of programming that's smart, fun and fearless (as a truly independent network), Current seeks to cater to the Internet generation's need for choice and control. Reflective of its name, it will serve up the most current information on the people, places and happenings of interest to viewers 18-34, a demographic that no longer relates to traditional news. Taking its cues from their media consumption habits, Current will offer short-form programming in the TV equivalent of an iPod shuffle. Its "pods" will be 15-second to five-minute segments that range from the hottest trends in technology, fashion, television, music and videogames, to pressing issues such as the environment, relationships, spirituality, finance, politics and parenting, subjects that young adults can rarely find on television. Pod segments include "Current Playlist" (music for the digital generation), "Current Parent" (advice to first-timers), "Current Gigs" (career guidance) and "Current Soul" (trends in spiritual awakening). Drawing from audience submissions are such pods as "Current Courage" (profiles of heroism and altruism), "Current Video" (video clips from the next Spielbergs or Spike Jonzes) and "Current Rant" (inviting viewers to let off steam). "Google Current," built using samplings of popular Google search data, including from Google Zeitgeist, complements the free-flowing pod format with news updates each half-hour. Thirty seconds to three minutes in length, these segments buck conventional news practices by reporting not on what media editors decide is "news," but on the topics people are actually searching for right now. So news isn't what the network thinks you should know, but what the world is searching to learn. "We're pleased to collaborate with the entire Current team to help this network make the world's information more accessible," said Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and president of Technology. "Current is an exciting new direction for TV programming that enables any viewer to have the opportunity to broadcast their video to the world," said Larry Page, Google's co-founder and president of Products. Guided by young hosts set in a club-like atmosphere, Current's free- flowing programming will include both professionally produced segments and viewer-created content. Current viewers will be able to easily upload their own segments through the network's online "Current Studio," available through the website (www.current.tv). These submissions will be assessed and ranked by other viewers, potentially voting the best ones onto the air. To facilitate their participation, Current also plans to launch a comprehensive online training program developed by some of the best young creatives in the industry. It will provide expert-led modules on storytelling, shooting and editing, effectively teaching anyone with a digital video camera and computer how to produce segments. Through this first-of-its-kind online training program, the network seeks to cultivate a national, and eventually global, coterie of "Current Journalists" (CJs). In May 2004, Current laid the foundation for its national presence when the company's founders acquired Newsworld International (NWI), a 24-hour channel dedicated to global news produced by The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Current will build on NWI's reach into nearly 20 million subscriber households in the U.S. with carriage agreements on DirecTV's "Total Choice" tier, Time Warner Cable's basic digital tier, and Comcast systems in key markets. Current is led by a talented executive team with deep experience in television news, entertainment, business, finance, advertising sales, marketing and youth culture. They include: Al Gore (Chairman of the Board), the former two-term Vice President who brings a lifetime of experience in public policy, technology and media to the network, leading Administration policies on telecommunications and actively championing causes such as the growth of the Internet; Joel Hyatt (Chief Executive Officer), recognized by Business Week as one of the top 50 business leaders in the country for his entrepreneurial ventures Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to families, and Hyatt Legal Plans, which became America's largest provider of employer-sponsored group legal plans (acquired by Met Life in 1997); Mark Goldman (Chief Operating Officer), a former MCA Television executive recruited by News Corp. to launch Sky Latin America Partners, overseeing branding and programming strategies, the construction of its digital broadcast facility and over $700 million of financing transactions; David Neuman (President, Programming), a former NBC executive in charge of comedy including "The Cosby Show," "Cheers" and "Family Ties," subsequently president of programming for Channel One, president of Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television and, most recently, chief programming officer at CNN, spearheading the revamping of the network's primetime strategy and the hiring of Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien and Paula Zahn; Anne Kallin Zehren (President, Sales and Marketing), who as launch publisher of the award-winning Teen People built it into the fastest-ever magazine to reach profitability and one of the fastest growing magazines of all time, previously serving as associate publisher of marketing of Glamour, director of marketing at Newsweek, and director of corporate/employee communications at NBC; and Joanna Drake Earl (Senior VP, Online Studio), who advised the heads of Hollywood's leading studios and Silicon Valley's most powerful tech firms as a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton, also serving as vice president of media partnerships for a broadband startup and heading the content strategy group for the digital entertainment systems company MOXI, now Digeo. Among Current's young on-air talent is Gotham Chopra (host of "Current Soul," an exploration of spirituality from a young perspective), a former Channel One News anchor who has reported from around the world and interviewed leaders including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama, wrote three published works including the comic book Bulletproof Monk (serving as executive producer of the film adaptation), and was called one of the "most powerful and influential" South Asians worth watching by Newsweek; Conor Knighton (host & associate producer of Google Current), who, while pursuing a degree in film studies and writing from Yale, wrote for the books division of the Yale Daily News and created much-ballyhooed sketch comedy, subsequently heading to L.A. to pursue a career in television, acting in various film and TV roles, working as a freelance writer and proving his esoteric knowledge by winning $13,400 on the game show "Pyramid"; and Laura Ling (news producer and on-air host), an award-winning producer whose work for Channel One News took her to more than two-dozen, sometimes war-torn countries (receiving unprecedented access from the Chinese government to look at China's growing AIDS epidemic), also serving as co-creator of the MTV issue-oriented documentary series "Breaking It Down," and producing other hard-hitting segments for ABC's "Nightline," NBC, the WB and PBS. Given its innovative mission to breed a new species of TV, network co- founder Joel Hyatt recognizes the wisdom of Orson Welles, who once said, "Don't give them what you think they want. Give them what they never thought was possible." Hyatt adds, "Young people believe it isn't possible to participate in the creation of television because the medium is not accessible to them. And traditional TV networks aren't willing or able to empower their viewers. Current is unleashing the creativity of young people, enabling their voice to be heard and their stories to be shared. What's possible just got a lot more exciting."
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