Home Current TV Takes User Generated Content On Air

Current TV Takes User Generated Content On Air

With the massive Live Earth concerts, which will be broadcast live to an estimated 2 billion people over television and the Internet (you can watch them live on MSN), just about five hours away, I thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at Al Gore’s other Internet and television endeavor.

Founded in 2005, Current TV is independent cable and satellite television network aimed at a youth demographic. Catering to the short attention spans of the 18-34 year old set, shows on Current are delivered in “pods,” which are short segments that are generally under ten minutes in length (and usually not much longer than five). In March of this year, Current TV surpassed a global reach of 50 million homes when it launched in the UK on British Sky Broadcasting and Virgin Media.

Current is disruptive in a number of ways, not least of which is that 30% of its programming is created by viewers. On the Current TV website users are invited to upload, vote on, and comment on viewer created content (or VC2 as they call it). The most recent piece of viewer created content voted on air was the 5 minute and 14 second documentary Hip Hop Church, about “gospel rap.” It had been viewed about 300 times before it was promoted to the the Current TV line up.

The rest of Current’s programming, also delivered in pod-form, is created in house by its team of producers, some of whom started out as VC2 creators. Some of their current shows (no pun intended) include the news satire cartoon SuperNews and the Earth pod, which is about the environment (you knew they had to have one of those, right?). Check out the full list.

Current also invites its users to occasionally create advertisements for its sponsors, which they call VCAMs (Viewer Created Ad Messages). Ads that are selected to air on Current TV earn the creator a $1,000 pay day, and if the sponsor likes the ad enough to use it beyond Current TV, the creator is paid a $50,000 flat fee. At the moment, Current is soliciting VCAMs for XM Satellite Radio, the Toyota Prius, and and L’Oreal. I guess the chance at $50,000 is a great motivational tool, because some of the ads seem good enough for prime time TV to me. Check out the very well-produced animated ad for the Toyota Prius below.


Interestingly, Current TV is not planning to air the Live Earth concerts. I guess 24 hours of live, streaming music just doesn’t fit with Current’s programming approach. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some post-concert recap pods appear in the next few weeks, though. Current TV is a unique approach to programming, and while the frenetic pace of 5 minute clips doesn’t appeal to me (I enjoy watching 40 minutes of CSI!), YouTube has proven that ultra-short form content has a place in today’s media. Current TV has figured out what appears to be a successful way to bridge the gap between user generated online video content and traditional television. It’s no wonder the Washington Post proclaimed in a front-page headline in February that Al Gore (who is chairman of Current TV) may be America’s “coolest ex-vice president ever.”

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