Al Jazeera to Acquire Al Gore’s Current TV
Al Jazeera on Wednesday completed a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore and his business partners seven years ago.
Current will provide the pan-Arab news giant with something it has sought for years: a pathway into American living rooms. Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.
Rather than simply use Current to distribute its English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel, called Al Jazeera America, based in New York. Roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States, while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.
Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to people with knowledge of the deal who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But Current’s schedule of shows will most likely be dissolved in the spring.
“Al Jazeera is planning to invest significantly in building ‘Al Jazeera America,’ a network focused on international news for the American audience,” the Current chief executive Joel Hyatt said in an e-mail to staffers on Wednesday evening. Referring to Mr. Gore, he said, “Al and I will both serve on the advisory board of Al Jazeera America, and we look forward to helping build an important news network.”
The plan will bring Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, into closer competition with CNN and other news channels in the United States.
This will be the third format change for Current since it began. Initially, it was a “viewer-content” channel where people would contribute news stories important to them — typically through low-budget documentaries. In 2011, it embraced its id and became the home of Keith Olbermann after his termination from MSNBC.
On an average night, less than 50,000 people watch the network and its programming.
UPDATE: Well, that came down quick.
Time Warner Cable has already announced they will be dropping Current TV from their line-up after the channel was acquired by Al Jazeera.
However, Al Jazeera’s attempt to gain more viewership in the US suffered an early setback after Time Warner Cable said it would stop carrying Current TV following the ownership change.
Time Warner, the second biggest cable company in the US, said it had already been looking to remove channels with low ratings, and this acquisition gave it the ability to cancel its contract.
UPDATE II: Oh, the irony continues!
The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that Gore is set to pocket $100 million from the sale, made possible through the funding of oil companies which mostly fund the government of Qatar.
Gore apparently also wanted the sale finalized before 1-1-2013 to avoid tax increases on his end.