Thursday, January 03, 2013

Al Jazeera buys Current TV for its US distribution


I see in Advanced TV Info that Qatari-government owned broadcaster Al Jazeera has bought  Current TV, the cable channel that was founded by former US Vice President Al Gore and his business partners in 2005. The deal – understood to be valued at around US $500 million – gives Al Jazeera access into American households. something which has been a serious challenge until now. 
Current is presently available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service. However that figure may drop soon. Time Warner Cable, says it had already decided that Current was one of a number of channels it intends to drop on its networks because of low ratings.  They have “terminated” their carriage agreement with Current and is in the process of  “removing the service as quickly as possible.” The FT believes this will mean the new Al Jazeera would reach 41 million homes rather than the present 60.
The potential deal, first reported by the New York Times, was confirmed by Gore and co-founder Joel Hyatt. “We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV,” Gore and Hyatt said in a statement. 
I'm sure Gore and Hyatt are delighted to get rid of the network. They may be in 60 million homes, but the Current viewership is a dismal 40,000. It has always been dogged by very poorly performing programming. Described as TV without a safety net, the channel closed in the UK in March 2012.
The price would indicate that Al Jazeera will do a lot to get cable coverage in the US, although I don't understand why they didn't try this sooner. Wonder what would have happened if RT had purchased the same distribution?  But then RT's budget is only 31 million dollars a year. 
Al Jazeera now has to a chance to prove its critics wrong. It can't blame poor distribution on low US numbers. 

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