80 staffers to be laid off
New Current TV CEO Mark Rosenthal is giving Al Gore’s Current TV an MTV-style makeover.As part of its change in programming philosophy, Current confirmed Wednesday that it would lay off 80 staffers — or about 25% of its staff. David Neuman, who had headed up Current’s programming, is also out. Most of the cuts were in Los Angeles, where much of Current’s in-house production was based. Channel opted to downsize after deciding to move away from its diet of short-form videos and move to a more traditional model of 30-minute and hour-long fare, much of it to be acquired. Switch should probably come as no surprise; Rosenthal hails from MTV Networks, where he had served as president. In the 1990s, MTV similarly dumped its reliance on short-form music videos in favor of traditional hour- and half-hour series. Current had run in-house produced and viewer-generated short-form videos since its 2005 launch. As part of the change, Current shows such as “Current Tonight,” “Current Takeover” and “Current Exposed” have been axed. Despite the change, Current said the layoffs were “not the result of a need to cut costs. Current Media will have its most profitable year.” Current said it will now move money into creating departments focused on program development, licensing and acquisitions, talent management, research, marketing, affiliate relations and advertising sales. In other words, start operating like a more traditional network. Short-form videos will continue to be a part of the network’s lineup, but now as part of regularly scheduled programs. Current, available in nearly 60 million homes worldwide, made headlines earlier this year when reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were held, and later released, by the North Korean government. The channel dropped plans earlier this year to cancel a $100 million IPO due to the weak economy. Current founders Gore and Joel Hyatt launched the channel after purchasing the U.S. distribution of global news channel Newsworld International.