Al Jazeera to Acquire Al Gore’s Current TV

News not from the Onion…

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.

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