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An Inconvenient IPO?

Al Gore has never had a problem going public. Now he's doing so literally. Current Media -- the Web-sharp television network that he helped get off the ground three years ago, and where he currently serves as chairman -- filed to go public this morning in a deal that may raise as much as $100 million.

The IPO may at first appear to be ill-timed. Isn't the market in the doldrums? Isn't the Writers Guild of America strike crimping the networks? Who has time for television anyway, when the "clip culture" mind-set has us all flocking to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) YouTube?

If those are your questions, then you don't know a whole lot about Current. As a hotbed of indie content, most of Current's programming comes from viewer submissions. Aspiring filmmakers and journalists upload their mostly nonfiction clips to the Current.TV website, where fellow members assist a panel of reviewers to dictate what gets on the air.

Things don't line up in pretty 30- and 60-minute slots the way they do in conventional television. Current really is television for the short-attention-span mindset that is fueling the clip-culture revolution.

The writers' strike is actually a blessing for Current, since the channel is constantly populated with fresh user-submitted content. And, yes, users do get paid if their content gets aired.

Obviously, there are several sources for amateur video in a Web 2.0 world. The clincher for Current is that it has wide television distribution. The Current channel is available on both DirecTV (NYSE: DTV  ) and EchoStar's (Nasdaq: DISH  ) Dish Network. Current also reaches couch potatoes through digital cable providers like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) . The channel is also available in the United Kingdom and Ireland through Sky (NYSE: BSY  ) and Virgin Media (Nasdaq: VMED  ) .

We'll be able to dig into the numbers and Current's valuation in the coming weeks as underwriters gauge investor interest in pricing the IPO. Since market sentiment may have turned by the time the process is complete, this is actually shaping up to be quite the convenient IPO.

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