Current TV to Turn Half the Screen Over to Twitter During Conventions

Networks Have Shown Tweets Before, But Current is Going Bigger

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Current TV is handing over half its screen to Twitter during the conventions.

The cable news network, co-founded by former vice president Al Gore in 2005, will pair convention coverage on the left side the screen with a very prominent Twitter feed on the right side. The feed will variously pull in tweets from reporters, Democratic and Republican insiders, Current staff, voters in swing states and viewers discussing the speeches.

"It's hard to compete with the big networks," said Current TV President David Bohrman. "For the most part each network will pretty much look the same, so we need to do something that looks really different."

Current will chose which feeds to air on the TV screen, but viewers can personalize their content online. While Current will not stream its coverage online, it will offer web surfers features such as a heat map that shows the most buzzed-about topics. The hope is that Current's on-air anchors, led by Mr. Gore, will pull trending conversations into their coverage, Mr. Bohrman said.

The Twitter feed also has sponsorship opportunities, with the Communications Workers of America already buying several units, according to Current.

"This is an evolutionary step in interactive TV," Mr. Bohrman said.

It's hardly the first time a network has shown tweets on the TV screen, but none have devoted this much real estate to social media before.

The Twitter feed will go live on Monday evening, when Current begins its convention coverage. The network will focus on the conventions from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night while they are going on.

The effort comes as Current continues to struggle to carve a place for itself amid bigger cable news rivals. The channel has been grappling with low ratings , with its overall viewership from Jan. 12 through Aug. 5 failing to meet Nielsen's minimum reporting standard. The network is distributed in about 60 million households in the U.S.

Current fired Keith Olbermann, whose show was the most prominent on the network, last March and replaced him with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Current has tested several formats and types of programming since its inception, with its roots in user-generated content. It first aired short videos made by viewers before converting to long-format journalism.

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