Reuters' scoop that Time Warner Cable has the right to drop Al Gore's left-leaning news channel Current TV if its ratings plunge isn't all schadenfreude for Keith Olbermann: his replacement, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's 47,000 viewers a night are just enough to squeak by. That didn't stop Olbermann from gloating on Twitter: "Now the real truth about @Current comes out. The business has been coming apart at the seams for awhile," he tweeted, linking to the Reuters story.
Peter Lauria's story reports that Current TV's agreement with Time Warner stipulates that if the network fails to draw a minimum number of viewers over a quarter -- the Reuters report does not specify what the number is -- "financial penalties such as Current TV being required to increase marketing and promotion spending on the cable operator's systems are triggered." Missing that target over two quarters allows Time Warner, the nation's fourth-largest cable provider, to drop the network from its channel lineup entirely. "If it was not for Olbermann's show, which averaged a total of 177,000 viewers per night, Current TV likely would have missed Time Warner Cable's viewership benchmark, said one of the sources," Lauria writes. But he goes on to report that the 47,000 viewers Eliot Spitzer's Viewpoint has been pulling in have kept the network in compliance with Time Warner's quotas. The network debuted a new morning lineup in late March, boosting its ratings by 150 percent, Lauria notes. And a Current TV representative told him: "We are fully in compliance with our Time Warner Cable contract and all indications show that even with Keith leaving we will continue to be in compliance."
Even if Current isn't at imminent risk, Olbermann really should see that as good news for the lawsuit against he is threatening. Networks that get dropped from big-time cable providers aren't the kind of networks with $40 million lying around to pay people like Olbermann.