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Upfronts 2011: Current TV Positions Itself as 'Real' Reality Network

A day after Current TV announced that Keith Olbermann would return to television with a nightly primetime commentary show on its network, the five-year-old channel previewed its upfront presentation to press in New York Wednesday morning.

Olbermann was not in attendance, and his upcoming untitled show premiering in late spring was not previewed during the presentation. But, Al Gore, a Current co-founder touted the network's independent platform and editorial freedom as a great environment for Olbermann, and co-founder Joel Hyatt called the former MSNBC host "a perfect fit with Current."

Execs expect the addition of a big TV personality will assure the network an increased distribution footprint, as well as increased ad sales revenue (Current is now available in 60 million U.S. Homes). His show will join other news-based programs already on the net like the docu-series Vanguard and This American Life with NPR's Ira Glass.

In the cable network spectrum, with the programming of History, MTV, truTV and others on one end, and the cable news nets of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC on the other, Current is positioning itself as somewhere in the middle.

Where Current execs see cable news increasingly focused on breaking news and scripted reality taking over the other cable nets, Current wants to focus itself on "real" reality.

Among those "real" unscripted new series joining the net in 2011 is Smoke Jumpers, which follows the Missoula, Mont. smoke jumping firefighting unit, which is deployed to parachute into wildfires when traditional firefighting crews can't reach them.

Another, 4th and Forever documents the football team of Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California -- a program that has sent more players to the NFL than any other high school in the country, but whose coaches must work to keep the kids on the field and out of gangs in the rough neighborhood.

Also coming up is Bar Karma, the first community developed TV series, from video game creator Will Wright. The sci-fi series focuses on a mysterious bar, with the production team crowd-sourcing script ideas from a community of users that are narrowed down by the producers and then voted on by community members. It premieres Friday, Feb. 11 at 10 p.m.