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Cenk Uygur Brings Loyal Young Turks Audience To CurrentTV

Cenk Uygur with fans in Asbury Park, NJ

On the heels of CurrentTV’s announcement that The Young Turks will join Keith Olbermann at the network as Countdown‘s lead-in, host Cenk Uygur and Current president Al Gore held a tele-press conference Tuesday afternoon. Gore talked about expanding Current’s lineup even more, and Uygur assured current Young Turks fans that he would be bringing the whole TYT crew, and the show’s magic, to the hour leading in to Countdown. Although Olbermann has the higher profile, The Young Turks has an arguably larger, more loyal audience to bring to Current.

Gore and CurrentTV CEO and Co-Founder Joel Hyatt revealed that the addition of TYT is the first step toward a full lineup of news and commentary. I asked Al Gore if he had anyone specific in mind, like top-rated progressive radio host Bill Press, or Thom Hartmann, who already produces a TV show in addition to his syndicated radio broadcast.

“Well, without getting into specific names, the answer to your question are we looking at someone else to add to the lineup, yes, we are,” Gore replied. “Stay tuned, you won’t have to wait that long.”

Current president David Bohrman added, “I’ll just tell you. We are going to have an entire broadcast day full of people. We had a beachhead with Countdown with Keith, now Cenk will lead into that, we’re working on the program afterwards and hopefully we’ll be able to talk about and crystallize and the rest of the day will follow. This is going to be a – you know, we are going to transform the network into political news commentary and analysis and you’re seeing it start.”

Although he declined to be specific, it sounds as though Gore and Current Chief News Officer Keith Olbermann already have someone in mind for the 9pm hour. Asked why TYT was being scheduled as Countdown‘s lead-in, rather than its lead-out, Hyatt replied that he hoped Cenk would bring new viewers to Countdown, and added, “We have a plan for that larger audience being handed off by Keith at nine, as well.”

While Gore joked that he expected TYT to continue its 300% annual audience growth rate (“I was going to say a billion,” Uygur cracked), he and Hyatt said they don’t have a number in mind for the show’s audience size. The Young Turks has the potential to bring a significant built-in audience to Current. Their daily Youtube audience of over a million is roughly equivalent to what Countdown was pulling in at MSNBC before the move, but The Young Turks has the added advantage of coming from a more interactive medium. A more invested fan base could result in a surprisingly large debut audience.

Uygur’s MSNBC show didn’t include any of the elements that have made The Young Turks popular, and was hampered by a lack of identity, generic graphics, and sub-par production values. Cenk assures viewers that the CurrentTV incarnation of TYT will bring the show’s familiar vibe along for the ride.

“Ana (Kasparian), Jayar (Jackson), Jesus (Godoy) will appear on air, as they normally do on TYT from time to time,” Uygur told me. “…We’ll also be having the same crew of guest hosts, co-hosts, etc, Wes Clark, Jr., Michael Shure, Richard Eskow, Jimmy Dore, Brian Unger. All these guys have been great to us throughout TYT history, Ben Mankiewicz.”

“We’ll also bring all the other progressives you’ve seen on my shows, as guests,” he continued, “and you know who they are. We are going to be a gathering place for progressives.”

He also assured fans of the online show that they’ll still be getting the content they’re used to. “Wee’re going to continue to do the two hours that we’re doing now,” Uygur said. “We’re going to do the hour of Current television, then we will do the two hours of The Young Turks online. And we will provide Members Only content as much as we can.”

Although the online show is free, TYT has about 3,500 viewers who pay $10 a month to access “Members Only” content, sort of like DVD extras for the hardcore fans.

Here’s a transcript of the call:(via email from CurrentTV)

Jeanne Meyer: Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us on such short notice. We had some exciting news today at Current and assembled on this call are Current’s Chairman and Former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore, also Co-Founder of Current; also, Joel Hyatt who is Chief Executive officer and Co-Founder of Current; David Bohrman, who is our rather new President of Current TV; and Cenk Uygur who is our newest edition to the family as the new Host and Exec Producer of The Young Turks on Current TV.

I’d like to introduce everyone – or I’d like to turn it over to Mr. Gore, who will start things off today.

Thank you.

Al Gore: Well, thank you, Jeannie, and hi everyone. As many of you have probably heard, Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks are coming to Current TV. Joel Hyatt and I are extremely excited about this development. If you look up the term Young Turks in the dictionary, it will say something like, young, progressive, or insurgent member of an institution movement or political party.

And although the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t add this, you might as well say, an alternative definition is Cenk Uygur, because Cenk and The Young Turks on YouTube and soon Current TV, are a group of progressive outspoken journalists and commentators who have build an incredibly fast-growing loyal network. Cenk and his collaborators and the army of followers that they’ve built really does live up to that definition of Young Turks.

Speaking personally, I’ve admired Cenk because he speaks truth to power without fear or favor. He gets that what audiences want today is context and insight about what’s going on in the world. They don’t want yelling, they want a smart take on the days’ news and the complex issues that affect their lives. They don’t want commentary that’s watered down by corporate or special interest influences. I liked how Cenk and his team boil it down for his viewers.

The Young Turks also understand that we live in a multi-screen world and they speak to an audience that wants to hear the truth, so Cenk, welcome to Current. I am so excited. And now I want to turn it over to my partner and Co-Founder, Joel Hyatt, who is our CEO.

Joel, take it away.

Joel Hyatt: Thanks, Al, I appreciate it. A few months ago, after we landed Countdown with Keith Olbermann, you know, Current changed its programming direction to become entirely focused on building a news analysis and political commentary network, one with a progressive voice and one that offers an alternative to what’s been in the marketplace.

We’re creating a new news network for a new kind of news viewer. People consume news in different ways today, on television, online, on mobile, and as Al said what they’re looking for is insight, context, and the truth. Cenk and The Young Turks is a great addition to our network. I share Al’s enthusiasm and excitement. This is just a wonderful development Current.

You’ve seen the stats. The Young Turks channel on YouTube gets about 30 million views a month, Cenk has 300,000 subscribers, and The Young Turks channel has racked up 1/2 billion video views. As we head into the election year people are eager to hear voices like Cenk’s, which can only be heard on an open independent platform like Current.

So, I want to add my welcome to that of Al’s to Cenk and his posse, and now let me turn it over to you, Cenk.

Cenk Uygur: All right, thank you both so much and I am incredibly excited to come to Current. As both the Vice President and Joel were just saying, it is a true home for independent television and for progressives all across the country. And I can’t wait to do a show there that is open, honest, aggressive, and also fun.

We’re in the fun business and we’re going to do it with a smile on our face, and we’re going to bring all the different strong progressives throughout the country to this show. It’s going to be a gathering place for progressives to meet and discuss the issues of the day, and I think it’s going to be a really exciting show and I couldn’t be more excited to do it with this great group of people.

I mean, for a progressive to have Joel Hyatt and Al Gore as your bosses and to have Keith Olbermann as your colleague, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Joel Hyatt: David?

David Bohrman: Well, we – we’re – we’ve already started. I mean, I was on already, must have sent 20 emails this morning already about the environment for The Young Turks and about how we’re going to produce the show, and what it may look and feel like.

And, you know, I will tell you that, you know, our goal is to come up with something refreshing, difference, the – to try to capture the excitement and magic and dynamic that The Young Turks brought to the Internet, we’re going to, in our own way, turn that it into what I think is going to be a really fun, interesting, compelling, and passionate television program.

They bring their community of loyal viewers with them and, you know, Cenk and I we had an immediate meeting of the minds on the program and what it was going to feel like, and we are – we’re – I mean, we’re ready to go and we’ve already begun. So, we’re really looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a great blast for us to do.

Cenk Uygur: Hey, let me add one other thing. You know, the – this is Cenk again, when you look at what David Bohrman’s done in his career, whether it’s World News Now and that kind of different irreverent, you know, more conversational shows, whether it was the site, whether it was what he’s did online, it – he was our President waiting to happen, in terms of the person that we would love to produce a show with.

So, I think it’s just the right combination and really excited about it.

Al Gore: We’re happy to take any questions. Jeannie, are you going to moderate it?

Jeanne Meyer: Yeah, I was just going to suggest that if you want to ask a question, to get in the queue. (Audrey) will tell folks how to do that, and I think we have a question from Tommy from Mediaite. Would you please…

Tommy Christopher: Hey…

Jeanne Meyer: …say your name and outlet? Thanks.

Tommy Christopher: Sure, I’m Tommy Christopher from Mediate. I actually – well, first of all, congratulations, Cenk.

Cenk Uygur: Thank you, Tommy.

Tommy Christopher: It’s great news. I have three questions if that’s okay, but one of them is really quick. First of all, Cenk, I wanted to know if – when MSNBC first started giving you static a few months back, did Keith ever tell you, you know, “Don’t worry about it. If doesn’t work out there, you know, we’ve got a spot for you?”

Cenk Uygur: No, no. I had no communication with Keith at time.

Tommy Christopher: All right, and now my second question for you was could you maybe ballpark us your total daily audience now, including the Internet stream, your YouTube views, and how many premium members do you have?

Cenk Uygur: Sure. You know, we use the number of one million from YouTube simply because YouTube dwarfs everything else, so when you put it all together it’s still in that ballpark. So, I think it’s just fair to say a million views a day, even though it’s probably a little over that we’re a little (queue) on it.

Tommy Christopher: What…

Cenk Uygur: But, and then…

Tommy Christopher: …do you get from the stream?

Cenk Uygur: What was it? Oh, our paid viewers are in the ballpark of 3500. That’s people who pay $10 for our podcasts; $10 a pod…

Tommy Christopher: All right and my last question’s for Mr. Gore, are you currently looking at any other progressive media talent? You’ve got Thom Hartmann doing a TV show, you’ve (Phil Press) out there, anybody else you want to add in the lineup?

Al Gore: Yes, stay tuned.

Tommy Christopher: Is said do you have anybody else that you’re thinking about adding to the lineup? You’ve got a lot of fresh…

Al Gore: Yes, I…

Tommy Christopher: …talent out there, Thom Hartmann.

Al Gore: Well, without getting into specific names, the answer to your question are we looking at someone else to add to the lineup, yes, we are. Stay tuned, you won’t have to wait that long.

Tommy Christopher: All right, you can’t see who, huh?

David Bohrman: This is…

Al Gore: Nope.

David Bohrman: …David, I’ll just tell you. We are going to have an entire broadcast day full of people. We had a beachhead with Countdown with Keith, now Cenk will lead into that, we’re working on the program afterwards and hopefully we’ll be able to talk about and crystallize and the rest of the day will follow. This is going to be a – you know, we are going to transform the network into political news commentary and analysis and you’re seeing it start.

Tommy Christopher: So, you’re going to be creating a lot of jobs liberals.

David Bohrman: (Yes), (unintelligible)…

Al Gore: We’re going to be creating a lot of jobs for people who are not afraid to speak truths to power without fear or favor.

Tommy Christopher: All right, sir. Thank you very much.

Coordinator: As a reminder, please press star 1 if you would like ask a question. And the next question comes from Sam Thielman. Your line is open.

Sam Thielman: Hi, guys, Sam Thielman from Daily Variety.

First of all, Cenk, congratulations and can you guys – can you tell me if you are looking at doing more programs like Cenk’s and Keith’s that are stripped five nights a week, or are you looking at doing – at like focusing in on a particular evening with more – with your other primetime programming.

David Bohrman: I think you’ll find more of the first.

Sam Thielman: Okay.

David Bohrman: I think you’ll find that we will do a 9:00 pm program. We’ll fill out the day. By and large, it’ll be things that are on every day. Weekends are an interesting question. There may be some things that we decide to make more episodic. But, I think fundamentally as we begin you should think that we’re going to be adding programs across the week uniformly.

Sam Thielman: Cool. Thank you.

Jeanne Meyer: Do we have any other questions? Yes, we do. I think we have David Levine from Adweek.

David Levine: Yeah, hi. I’m just curious whether we can expect this to be the template, meaning folks who have large online followings already, folks who have followings outside of the sort of linear TV medium, is that who you’re looking at moving forward to fill out your sort of personality slate?

Joel Hyatt: David, it’s Joel, I would say there’s going to be on template. I think we’re going to do a lot of things. We, of course, love the fact that Cenk has this huge online following. And keep in mind that the DNA, the original roots of what Al and I started here at Current was to be a multi-platform network, one in which we could explore and bring innovation to the synergies between the platforms so that they could be additive to each other and not just duplicative of each other, and this is a great opportunity with The Young Turks to do just that.

And again, yes, you know, Keith Olbermann was a rating superstar, no question about that. He had a loyal following. Cenk has a loyal following. Do we like that as we launch those TV shows knowing they’re going to get off to a good start, absolutely. And so, there’s certainly something very appealing about that template, but we’re going to develop different kinds of shows and as Al said, you’re going to need to stay tuned.

I’d like to think though that the only template theme that we want to have is that each and every one of them be – build large followings for insightful, intelligent, courageous analysis from people whose opinions you’ll want to hear. That’s the template we’re looking at.

Man: (Unintelligible)…

Al Gore: And this is Al Gore, if I could briefly add to that. I endorse everything Joel just said, but Cenk is one of a kind. He has the most successful news and political commentary channel on YouTube and he has a record of experience and great success already in the television medium, so he is kind of one of a kind.

Cenk Uygur: And I just want to add, look, given that The Young Turks is the longest running live daily Web TV show, given that Current has, you know, web presence in television in its DNA, this was just a partnership waiting to happen. It makes all the sense in the world and I really appreciate what the Vice President and Joel just said as well.

David Levine: Can I ask, I’m sorry, a very quick follow-up? Do you have an expectation for how many viewers you think might, you know, make it over from YouTube to Current? Do you have a figure in mind for what you’re hoping for?

Cenk Uygur: Who was that directed to?

Joel Hyatt: We don’t have – any preconceived notion about that. We’re – we believe that Cenk is going to have a television show that’s going to enormously attracted to its existing following, and of course the TV platform adds the opportunity to bring many new viewers. So, we’re excited about the potential success of the program, but we don’t have any preconceived data points to provide to you.

Al Gore: He promised us that he would continue his annual 300% audience growth rate.

Cenk Uygur: I was going to go with a billion, but okay.

Coordinator: Please press star 1 if you would like to ask a question.

Jeanne Meyer: I think we have a question from Frazier Moore from the AP. Frazier?

Frazier Moore: I was just wondering why you chose to put the new show on at 7:00 instead of 9:00 after Keith Olbermann to let him lead into it? What’s the strategy there for programming the two shows?

Joel Hyatt: Well, again, as to what we’re doing at 9:00 you’ll have to stay tuned and there – this is more art than science. We’re very excited about what we’ve are already achieving as younger audience for news analysis and commentary than the other networks in our competitive set.

We believe that trend’s going to continue launching – with the launching of Cenk and The Young Turks, and we’re excited about that. We think the consequence of that is that Cenk’s going to bring a new audience leading into Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which you know again, is a big and important development for us, and I think that you know, look, Keith Olbermann’s going to keep that audience.

So, the audience that The Young Turks delivers to Keith we hope will be additive to the loyal following that Keith already has and will grow Keith’s audience, and is – you know, as we’ve alluded to we have a plan for that larger audience being handed off by Keith at 9 o’clock as well.

Frazier Moore: Thank you.

Cenk Uygur: And for my part, I love 7:00 pm because I’ll be the only progressive on television at that time slot.

Frazier Moore: Understood. Thanks.

Jeanne Meyer: We have a question from Matthew Flamm from Crain’s New York Business. Matthew?

Matthew Flamm: Hi, I just – I got on the call late, so I apologize if you’ve been asked this already, but do you expect to see this help you, you know, expand your distribution?

Joel Hyatt: Yes. Good question. Yes, we do. Again, as we build out a – what – we will in January have a full primetime lineup for a Presidential Election year. We will be the only independent news analysis network and we believe that that will serve as a very compelling case for additional distribution for Current.

We are today carried into about 60 million U.S. households, which is a great accomplishment for a small independent network; very few others have been able to do that in the years in which we’ve built that distribution platform.

That said, a primetime lineup with hit shows, which is what we’re going to have in place for the beginning of the Presidential Election year, we believe will result in increased distribution.

Matthew Flamm: And any timetable for that where you think you might start adding?

Joel Hyatt: No, none that we’re going to be predicting, no.

Matthew Flamm: Okay.

Jeanne Meyer: I think we have time for just a couple more questions. We have – Tommy Christopher, did you have another question you wanted to ask?

Tommy Christopher: Yeah, I had – well, there weren’t so many people raising their hand, so I do have a couple. As a original Young Turks Premium Member, I’m kind of curious if you’re going to – when you say The Young Turks are going to Current are you bringing the whole gang with you; J.R. and Dave and Ana, and will you be moving to the East Coast or staying on the West Coast?

Cenk Uygur: That’s a great question, Tommy. Yes, Ana, J.R., Jesus, will appear on air as they normally do on The Young Turks from time to time. You know, how I talk to my producers from time to time, Ana does, you know, some political and some pop culture stories for us. We’ll also be having the same crew of guest hosts, co-hosts, et cetera, that you normally see on The Young Turks; Wes Clark, Jr., Michael Shure, Richard Eskow, Jimmy Dore, Brian Unger.

All these guys have been great to us throughout The Young Turk’s history; Ben Mankiewicz. And we’ll also bring all the other progressives you’ve seen on my shows as guests, and they’re a great lineup and you know who they are. We are going to be a gathering place for progressives.

Tommy Christopher: And you’re staying on the West Coast?

David Bohrman: David, let me – Tommy, let me add in. One of the reasons Cenk’s going to be able to do that, and we didn’t mention it, the program will originate from Los Angeles. It’s where the home of The Turks is and it will be there – we do the program from L.A. live every day, so all of The Turk’s regulars will be there and at home and we won’t have to latch them all up electronically everyday to create the right environment and the right dynamic for The Turks.

Tommy Christopher: All right, and one more quick one, you currently do what, three or four hours of programming a day, are you going to continue to do that also, the (full size) Turks at night or is this going to be (edited) to one hour?

Cenk Uygur: No, we’re going to continue to do the two hours that we’re doing now online, so we will do the hour current television and then we will do the two hours of The Young Turks online.

Tommy Christopher: All right, thanks.

Cenk Uygur: And then, we will provide…

Joel Hyatt: And the…

Cenk Uygur: …members-only content, you know, as much as we can, which is how we do it today.

Tommy Christopher: Thank you.

Joel Hyatt: And the television broadcast will be live daily 7 o’clock Eastern and it will be rebroadcast at 10 o’clock Eastern.

Jeanne Meyer: I think we are a wrap, folks. Thank you so much joining us. If you have any questions I think you know who to reach out to.

Thank you for your time today.

Al Gore: Thanks, everyone.

Cenk Uygur: Thank you.

David Bohrman: Thanks.

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