NEW YORK -- TV news veteran David Bohrman, who took over Monday as the new president of Current TV, says the network will be undergoing a major transformation in the near future.
“It won’t transform itself in a day or a week," Bohrman said by phone. "But I guarantee you, if you look at Current a year from now, you’ll see a significantly different network than you see right now.”
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Bohrman and Current chief executive Joel Hyatt talked about how the upstart cable network -- now home to “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” at 8 p.m. -- will build a stable of programs around the liberal host with an eye toward the 2012 election and beyond. Bohrman, who left CNN Friday after a decade of high-profile gigs like Washington bureau chief and chief innovation officer, appears ready to bring Current into the cable wars.
“'Countdown' is like the beachhead in Omaha Beach on D-Day,” Bohrman said by phone Monday. "Now we’ve got to reinforce the position, and that’s the programs before and after. And after we take Normandy, we take the rest of Europe.”
Such battle-ready metaphors haven't generally been part of Current's short history on the cable dial.
Founded in 2005 by Hyatt and former Vice President Al Gore, Current initially focused primarily on user-generated content -- a strategy that’s since been abandoned in the age of YouTube. The network only recently veered into news and analysis with Olbermann hitting the airwaves in June. But now with the addition of Bohrman, Current has signaled that its last high-profile hire wasn’t a fluke.
Gore, in a statement, said that hiring Olbermann showed the network's intention "to be a truly independent, conflict-free, progressive voice in the news and political commentary arena." Bohrman, he continued, "passionately shares our vision" and will help "take Current to a whole new level in programming and production."
Although Current doesn’t have the newsgathering resources or audience reach of Bohrman’s previous employer, Hyatt pointed out that “Countdown” has, at times, beaten CNN in the 25-54 demographic this summer. (It should be noted that while Nielsen recently began to rate Current, the network does not release its numbers each night.)
“We’ve proven that we can compete with the right kind of programming, the right kind of political commentary, the right kind of news analysis,” Hyatt said. “We actually are very excited about the competitive opportunity. We’re going to seize that opportunity, and we believe win, by differentiating ourselves on the basis of really compelling and innovative programming.”
While Current now runs documentaries and repeats of Olbermann’s show through much of the day, Bohrman said the network is moving toward a “full daytime, morning schedule of news, information, analysis, conversation, context -- all based on the events of the day.”
Bohrman was part of ABC’s “Nightline” in the early years, helped jumpstart MSNBC in the mid-1990s, and was instrumental in launching several CNN programs (“Situation Room"), features (Magic Wall) and innovative political events (YouTube debate). He said that a major reason he accepted the offer from Current is that he is motivated by the opportunity to create new things. "I’m fundamentally a creator and producer and that’s what I think they need,” he said.
First comes primetime. Bohrman acknowledged that Rachel Maddow -- who just re-upped with MSNBC -- won’t be following Olbermann to the network. He said he plans to sit down with Olbermann in New York next week to get the ball rolling on finding other primetime hosts. “We’re not going to let moss gather as we begin to figure out primetime,” Bohrman said. “We know that it’s the next step.”
And looking forward to 2012, Bohrman promises that Current won't be bound by tradition when it comes to political coverage.
“You’re not going to see a traditional news piece: candidate X went here, sound bite, he then went there, sound bite, stand-up, close, back to you,” he said. Current may have a "small squadron" of reporters in the field, he said, but a "traditional, 1960’s style news reporting approach is not where we’re going to go.”
“The other guys are still stuck with half [a] foot in the past and honestly trying to figure out the future as well,” he added. “But we're just not encumbered by it and can move, I think, quick and smartly as we get into the campaign."