Former Vice President Al Gore, Current TV co-founder, at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Jan. 13, 2012, in Pasadena , Calif.(Photo: Danny Moloshok, AP)
LOS ANGELES -- Al Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that
struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired
Current TV, boosting its reach nearly ninefold to about 40 million
homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning
news network that co-founder Al Gore couldn't make relevant.
former vice president confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a
statement that Al Jazeera shared Current TV's mission "to give voice to
those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide
independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no
one else is telling."
The acquisition lifts Al Jazeera's reach
beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and
Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to
gradually transform Current into a new channel called Al Jazeera America
by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and
hiring more journalists.
Al Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender said
there are no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel - unlike
the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations.
He said the move is based on demand, adding that 40% of viewers on Al
Jazeera English's website are from the U.S.
"This is a pure
business decision based on recognized demand," Collender said. "When
people watch Al Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal."
Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the U.S., and the deal
suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable, the nation's
second-largest cable TV operator, announced it would drop Current TV due
to the deal.
"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and
we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service
as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement.
Previous to Al Jazeera's purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes.