Al Gore's Current TV signs deal with BSkyB

MUMBAI: Former US Vice President Al Gore has unveiled plans to launch a UK version of his 'user generated' network, Current TV.

Current has signed an agreement with UK pay TV platform BSkyB to launch a localised version of its viewer-created TV channel in the UK and Ireland.

The announcement was jointly made by Current chairman Al Gore and BSkyB CEO James Murdoch. The agreement provides Current’s first presence outside the US and marks a step in fulfilling its plans of becoming an international media company, while for BSkyB it represents a first step in a strategy to develop a broader presence in the fast-growing field of user-generated content.

Current TV is the first TV network created by, for, and with a young adult audience, enlisting its audience as creative partners. To tailor its output to the local audience, Current plans to deliver a channel specifically designed for the British and Irish markets.

Viewer producers from the UK and Ireland will be able to submit their video segments via Current’s website and, if their work is selected for broadcast, they will also have a chance to have their pieces air on Current’s U.S. network and in other markets into which Current will expand in the future.

Since its launch in August 2005, Current TV claims to have been a pioneer in the world of user-generated content, with its 'viewer created content' or VC2, programming model. Rather than a traditional network with primetime shows and “appointment television,” Current offers short-form, nonfiction programming, called “pods,” which are only a few minutes long and which explore the issues of interest to young adults, including technology, fashion, music and videogames, the environment, relationships, spirituality, politics, finance, and parenting. In the US, approximately 30 per cent of the network’s content is created by viewers.

The agreement will allow Current TV to reach up to 22 million more viewers in 8.2 million households subscribing to BSkyB’s Sky digital service, equivalent to almost one in three households in the UK and Ireland. Over the past year Current has expanded its US carriage by 70 per cent from 17 million to nearly 30 million homes.

Gore says, “We are grateful to be working with BSkyB in our first international venture. This is a big step in fulfilling Current’s mission of sparking a global conversation among young adults. Bringing our viewer-created content model to the UK and Ireland will give millions of young viewers the opportunity to not only watch but also to create television programming that is relevant to them. We’re excited about being able to unleash the creativity of young people in the UK and Ireland, enabling them to share their stories with their generational cohort here and around the world.”

Murdoch says, “Current TV is bringing the web’s sense of empowerment to television for the first time. It has a uniquely collaborative approach to working with viewer producers that stands out among other platforms for user-generated video. As a first step towards Sky’s own moves in this fascinating field, we’re pleased to help give a voice to millions of young people throughout the UK and Ireland.”

Murdoch incidentally was one of the first to back Mr Gore's campaign to persuade big business to face up to green issues. He said the partnership with Current TV was the first step towards the broadcaster, which will make it available free to all its 8.2 million subscribers, launching other user-content initiatives.

Internet networking sites such as MySpace and video sharing services such as YouTube and Google Video have forced broadcasters to learn from them. Political parties have also tried to get in on the act, as with the WebCameron Tory initiative.

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