Current TV CEO Mark Rosenthal Exits Amid Network's Attempt to Transform

Oversaw Pickup of 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann'

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Mark Rosenthal
Mark Rosenthal

Current TV CEO Mark Rosenthal is leaving the company today after two years in the post and six as Current board member. Joel Hyatt, Current's co-chairman and co-founder, will reclaim the CEO title, a position he held prior to Mr. Rosenthal's appointment.

Mr. Rosenthal, who oversaw the network's pickup and launch of "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," had grown increasingly frustrated over sharing many executive duties with Mr. Hyatt, executives familiar with Mr. Rosenthal's departure told Ad Age .

Current executives hope the network is at a turning point in its history, much as MSNBC was when Mr. Olbermann first joined that network in 2003. Current, founded by Al Gore and Mr. Hyatt, is trying to evolve from an interactive network targeting young adults to a broader documentary-based, politically progressive channel anchored by shows like "Countdown" and "Vanguard."

The independent network is available in only 60 million homes, a good 35 million shy of the distribution for competitors like MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and HLN. In June, Mr. Rosenthal told Ad Age that Current stood to benefit greatly from the upcoming election cycle.

"The single biggest opportunity for any cable news network is the general election," Mr. Rosenthal said then. "If you look at Nielsen ratings , fourth-quarter 2007 through fourth-quarter 2008 for Fox, CNN and MSNBC, the three of those saw a combined 100% ratings increase. There's a tremendous on-ramp as you get to the election. To me it seems like a sports season that ends in a championship. The primaries are equivalent to that ."

Current issued a statement noting Mr. Rosenthal's achievements as CEO. "During Mark's tenure, Current has become a focused cable network with a world class leadership team, a new brand identity, a move towards long-form, ratings -driven factual programming and a solid foundation for growth," the network said.

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