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Al Gore network lets viewers shape TV content

Former vice president Al Gore, currently the chairman of Current Media, said last week his company will soon introduce “Crowdsourced TV,” a new social media concept that encourages audience participation in making television programming.

Speaking at Media Magazine’s Outfront Conference in New York City, Gore said he wanted to build anticipation for the concept and will not yet reveal details about the new network. He noted that consumers have already embraced social media platforms and new, inexpensive, professional quality technologies that have made them as much a part of the conversation as any marketer or media conglomerate, and that the best option for the media industry is to embrace it.

Gore said the new concept would expand on the viewer’s ability to create information and entertainment content, as well as advertising on behalf of marketers and brands. Current TV was one of the first networks to utilize consumer-generated advertising campaigns on behalf of marketers, and showed campaigns that were recently developed by its users to help introduce a new, biodegradable package design for Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips.

“What if we let them create content and the advertising?” Gore told a roomful of top advertisers, agency and TV industry executives attending the Outfront conference. ”We’re pretty excited about this.“

The term “crowdsourcing“ is a compound of “crowd“ and “outsourcing“ and means the outsourcing of tasks typically to the public. For example, it may mean the public is invited to help develop a new technology or carry out a design task.

The term has become popular with businesses, authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.

Gore’s use of the term came in a speech largely focused largely on the concept of a ”sustainable advertising“ marketplace, and what advertisers, agencies and the media could to do to help make it a reality. The industry needs to, Gore asserted, because “the consumer is way ahead of us on this.”

Gore implied that Crowdsourced TV would be a new iteration of what Current Media already does with its online community and its cable and satellite delivered television network. Current TV already reaches 60 million U.S. households, and also operates in a number of major markets around the world.

Gore and his business partner Joel Hyatt originally launched Current TV to “democratize” the business of media, giving consumers more of a say and direct involvement in the creation and distribution of content.

In many ways, Current TV was ahead of its time, paving the way for a user-generated revolution that was ultimately seized by YouTube, and fueled by legions of social network platforms that promote and distribute it.

Gore, who is a senior advisor to Google, owner of YouTube, did not say whether it might play a role in Crowdsourced TV, and he did not offer a specific time frame for unveiling details of the plans.

Mark Rosenthal, the former MTV Networks president who was brought in last year as CEO of Current Media, however, has been retooling the network and its website to leverage the best of both its user/creator base, as well as his personal ties to Hollywood and professional TV and film producers.