America's Got Cable: MSNBC vs. Current

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Welcome to another kick-slapping week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: It was one of our highest-voted competitions yet as both Logo and IFC openly lobbied their viewers to chime in. But ultimately drag queens were no match for movie nerds. Congratulations to...


This was a great matchup! Both channels were deserving, and both sides really made their cases in the comments. Here were some good ones:

GinaMenta: I Love LOGO and especially RuPaul's DRAG RACE! It picks me up when I feeling Blue...just Love Ru and the Gals!

CarolineAnder: IFC times a billion. The syndicated programming is wonderful, the original shows are great, they have an amazing web presence, loves it. .

KevinG87: Being a straight man I should say IFC... But I never cared for any of the shows they rerun and the originals don't interest me, or have people in it I don't like.. Even though I don't like Logo's originals (or most reruns), it has Daria, Wonderfalls, and Buffy, two of which were my favorite shows overall. 1 Girl 5 Gays is also pretty funny, and Aliya Jasmine is pretty hot lol

NEW BUSINESS: Things are about to get WEIRD for Keith Olbermann.


Background: MSNBC was founded in 1996 during the cable news explosion of the mid-90s that also wrought the Fox News Channel. Originally a collaborative partnership between NBC News and Microsoft and intended to report thoughtful, serious news, it floundered in irrelevance for about ten years before fully embracing the bias-and-punditry model with which Fox News struck ratings gold. After Microsoft sold its stake back to NBC, MSNBC is now fully owned and operated by NBC News and is now viewed as a legitimate force in prime time cable news ratings, frequently attracting more viewers than even CNN.

Original Programming: Most of MSNBC's weekday schedule is broken up into personality-centric blocks of news reporting and commentary. Their most notable on-air personalities include conservative Joe Scarborough, dreamy Thomas Roberts, possibly insane Martin Bashir, and the genuinely entertaining Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. Most of these shows have similar formats: The host reports a headline, then throws to a disembodied head in a floating box for an opinion. Hard news!

Reruns: Because MSNBC is part of the NBC News family, it has an extraordinary archive of documentaries and specials it airs during weekends and off-hours. Things like Lockup, Dateline NBC and To Catch a Predator benefit from frequent repeats.

Why It's The Best: Remember when Deep Impact came out right after MSNBC first began and the main reporter lady worked for MSNBC and got all the important scoops? That was hilarious. I LOVE Deep Impact!

Why It's The Worst: The less cable news I watch, the longer my life will be? Medical fact.


Background: In 2004, Tipper Gore's husband got together with a rich buddy and they founded a youth-centric, user-generated cable channel called INdTV. Perhaps realizing that was an awful name, they quickly changed it to Current, but left intact the awful idea to allow users to create their own segments. Basically, Current was all-amateur-idealism all the time. And boring! Lately though, Current has followed the MTV model of separating its schedule into 30-minute blocks and creating more polished original programming. Today Current may not have the most viewership penetration in the cable lineup, but it certainly has the most potential for growth.

Original Programming: Much like G4, Current looks and feels like a cable access channel-- But that's not a bad thing! It's got an exciting, try-anything energy to it. In addition to the legitimately good Vanguard journalism series, it's got 4th and Forever, a fairly great documentary series about high school football, plus things like infoMania (think The Soup), the stylish and intriguing Bar Karma and the televised middle-finger to vegans called Kill It, Cook It, Eat It. Most notably, Current will soon be home to Keith Olbermann's first new show after leaving his gig on MSNBC, which will ALSO be called Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Awkward!

Reruns: Admirably enough, Current mainly reruns its own programming. But one outside series that it does air would be a crown jewel in anyone's schedule: the This American Life television show. Seriously, have you seen it yet? It's really tremendous! Ugh, so good.

Why It's The Best: Despite being created by a career politician, Current does feel genuinely different and weird–Qualities that go a long way in a mostly corporate-owned cable lineup.

Why It's The Worst: Zzzzzzzzzz...

Official Verdict: Not gonna lie, I don't really watch much of either channel. I think I respect MSNBC for finally owning up to its own biases. But on the other hand, I think Current might have more surprising content? I'm gonna go with Current, just because it's the scrappy underdog.

But now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: MSNBC or Current? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?

Want to catch up on past battles? Head over to the America's Got Cable archives.

Follow writer Price Peterson on Twitter: @pricepeterson

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