Current TV is betting its convention coverage on the hypnotic power of a stream of tweets alongside its live video coverage.
In its studio on the west side of Manhattan, the progressive news network previewed its political convention coverage, which resembles Web TV more than MSNBC. Former Vice President Al Gore will lead the network’s coverage from New York, alongside Jennifer Granholm, Eliot Spitzer, Cenk Uygur and others. But their analysis and the live footage from the convention will occupy less than half of the screen real estate during the coverage from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET each night of both the Republican and Democratic conventions. On the right side of the screen, Current will display curated and live-updating Twitter lists.
“It’s gonna be hard to compete big with the networks,” Current TV President David Bohrman told TPM. At the end of the day, “it looks pretty much the same on all the networks. For Current, we compete really different.”
For a rough estimation of how that looks on-air, think Huffpost Live: an anchor video in the top left corner of the screen, and community conversation flowing on the right. The strategy “goes back to the origins of Current,” Bohrman added, with user-generated content. “It’s right that we push this territory a little bit on the air.”
Current viewers won’t be able to watch the live coverage online, but the Twitter activity will take the form of a “heat map” on the site, with bubbles reflecting the size of different conversations centered around the convention. The network plans to employ the same on-air social media strategy during the presidential debates in the fall. Editorially and stylistically, Current will cover the RNC and DNC the same.
Asked how he will determine if the experiment was successful, Bohrman set the expectations low. It’s conceivable, he said, that ratings could stay flat through the conventions. But as long as people say, “Wow, that was really interesting,” it seems Bohrman will be satisfied.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com