Current TV to Consider Offers From Potential Buyers

Any Sale Seems Likely to Trigger Significant Changes

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There's a long list of potential buyers who might be interested in Current TV, analysts said Friday after the network said it was considering its options, but most major players would likely rework the channel into something else.

Eliot Spitzer on Current TV
Eliot Spitzer on Current TV

"Its current format isn't getting much traction with viewers," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research, Horizon Media.

The cable news network has decided to "engage expertise to help us evaluate our strategic options," CEO Joel Hyatt told the New York Post in an article breaking the news. Mr. Hyatt added that Current received three offers this year alone.

A Current spokeswoman confirmed the report but cautioned that the company is not set on a sale, is considering offers of several types and may not do any deal in the end. She declined to identify the companies that have expressed interest.

If a deal does eventually go through, the money involved will probably be relatively small. Current TV, which is in about 60 million homes, has been struggling to gain traction, evolving from a network for user-generated video into a more traditional news channel on the liberal side of the political spectrum.

The network is now entangled in a lawsuit with Keith Olbermann, whom it fired in March less than a year after hiring him in a high-profile bid to broaden its appeal. Mr. Olbermann was replaced at Current by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Other hosts include Joy Behar, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

"Given all of the struggles Current has gone through, the pricing will probably be quite low for a network of this size," said Derek Baine, analyst at SNL Kagan.

A cable channel ripe for a makeover could appeal to a wide range of buyers. News Corp., which owns cable networks including FX and Fox News Channel, might make sense as an acquirer as it spins off its newspaper division and becomes more of a pure-play cable company, Mr. Baine said. Disney might also be interested at the right price, he said.

It's less clear who would be interested in the channel under its present strategy. Walt Disney Co. is already working with Univision to develop a news network, Mr. Adgate pointed out. He also dismissed the possibility of AMC Networks or Scripps Networks as a buyer, saying Current's format doesn't fit in either portfolio. Potential suitors could include independent or private investors wanting to get into the cable news business, however, Mr. Adgate said.

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