International news broadcaster Al Jazeera has acquired Current TV, the US factual and current affairs channel created by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, and will replace the channel with a new network, Al Jazeera America.
Al Jazeera said that the deal would expand its US distribution from 4.7 million to 40 million, thanks to Current TV’s carriage deals with cable networks. The Qatar-based broadcaster plans to expand its network of bureaus across the US and to double its headcount in the country to more than 300.
“For many years, we understood that we could make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States and what we are announcing today will help us achieve that goal,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement. “By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the US, as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America.”
Al Jazeera America network will be distinct from the current Al Jazeera English channel and will include more domestic US news. In a sign of potential trouble ahead for the new channel, however, Time Warner Cable announced it was terminating its carriage deal with Current TV immediately on the agreement being announced. Current TV is also distributed on major cable, DTH and IPTV services including DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Verizon and AT&T.
Current TV has struggled to build viewership since it was launched in 2005. Under the terms of the deal with Al Jazeera, Gore will become a member of the new network’s advisory board.
“Current Media was built based on a few key goals: 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,” Gore and Hyatt said in a statement. “Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but analysts estimated it could be worth US$500 million (€380 million).