Continuing my crowdsourcing of questions for one-on-one conversations at this week’s CM Summit is Joel Hyatt, CEO of Current. Founded in 2005, Current is “the only 24/7 cable and satellite television network and Internet site produced and programmed in collaboration with its audience.” The company has grown to nearly $64 million in revenues (2007) but has yet to hit profits, early this year it filed a public offering ($100 mm in proceeds), which has not completed due, one presumes, to market conditions. Still and all, a cable channel that counts more than 50mm potential viewers is a serious asset, and current.com, its online presence, is a vibrant community as well. It doesn’t hurt that the company courts a difficult to reach demographic – young, educated adults.
Current has been at the center of a lot of innovation in media, a recent example is “Hack the Debate“, a partnership with Twitter (co-founder Evan Williams will also be speaking at the CM Summit).
Current is an ambitious project, backed by serious players, including Al Gore, who serves as Chairman. Hyatt, who runs the company day to day, also serves on the board of HP and the Brookings Institute, and has been quite involved in politics, serving as National Finance Chair for the Democratic Party in 2000. Previous to Current, he co-founded and led Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to middle and lower-income families.
So what would you want to hear from Joel in a fireside chat? My questions include:
– Current has a pretty new model (for television, certainly) but still a lot of its value is in the TV play. Are you still held hostage to that? Will the online portion of Current ever be bigger than the television piece?
– How is the economy impacting sales, both offline and on?
– Clearly this is not a time to go public. What are the financing options for a large media play like Current in this environment?
– Tell us more about the deal with Twitter? What does it portend?
– What’s broken with how we get our news? If you ran a major news outlet (IE CBS News), what would you do differently?
– What have you learned working with marketers at Current? Give us some examples of innovation that might spark discussion?
– I can’t let Joel get off stage without getting his take on the election, given the timing….
What would you ask Joel?
8 thoughts on “CM Conversations: Joel Hyatt”
It’s George Bush’s fault. He should apologize.
1. Brian Lamb started C-SPAN in 1979 with the laudable goal of providing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the United States Congress. Some have argued that TV coverage led to increased grandstanding and partisan rancor.
What effect do you think that had on the way we are governed?
2. I’d argue wikis/Uservoice.com-type apps trump message boards when it comes to constructive uses of new media to activate widespread community involvement.
What are the keys to true, non-partisan civic involvement?
3. Alongside obvious innovations like online video and social networking, this year has seen other new political uses of media such as dedicated TV channels for a candidate, search ads that led to articles without the permission of the article publisher, online fundraising, etc.
What are the most noteworthy, new uses of media in this election cycle? What do you think the medium-term effect will be?
Hyatt, who runs the company day to day, also serves on the board of HP and the Brookings Institute, and has been quite involved in politics, serving as National Finance Chair for the Democratic Party in 2000. Previous to Current, he co-founded and led Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to middle and lower-income families.
I’m looking forward to the interview with Joel as I’ve heard a lot about Current TV but never seen it because it is a pay channel on my cable system. Kind of a basic question but any info on whether Current is soon to be included in basic cable plans?
What sort of success has Current TV seen with its distribution on Virgin America airlines? What other brands does Current TV want to align itself with that are a fit for the audience? Has the quality of content being submitted improved over the past couple years?
Whenever I watch Current content I’m always impressed, educated and entertained but I find it hard to track down outside a visit to the site. What syndication and/or marketing ideas have you found most effective in growing your audience and given the ever evolving world of conversational media what would you like to experiment with moving forward.
Joel, how much of Current’s content is user-generated? There have been a lot of reports out lately highlighting that advertisers want to align themselves with professionally-produced content providers. In the wake of these reports, does this shift your editorial and programming plans moving forward to provide you viewers with more professionally-produced, editorially-filter content and less UGV?
Can you comment on your cable agreements and the restrictions, if any, they place on your TV content and what can/can’t be made available online? Does this require Current to create a lot of content expressly for the Internet?
Current is ostensibly a hybrid media company: Part conversational media, part packaged goods media. How has this model impacted operating margins, has the drive to profitability tipped that balance in a particular direction and why, has this balance chanced from the companies inception/original vision?