Al Jazeera acquires Current TV, will rebrand channel

al-jazeera-logo.jpgAl Jazeera on Wednesday completed a deal to take over Al Gore's seven-year-old Current TV, which is based in San Francisco. The New York Times' Brian Stelter analyzes that "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."

But actually, Time Warner Cable is dropping Current from its 10 million homes that had gotten the low-rated channel. So make that 50 million homes, not including most of Los Angeles and New York City.

Stelter says that Al Jazeera will create a new channel, Al Jazeera America, to be based in New York. Al Jazeera English currently beams to the U.S. mostly from Doha in Qatar.

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.

For Al Jazeera, the acquisition is a coming-of-age moment. A decade ago, the Arabic-language channel was reviled by American politicians for showing video tapes and messages from al Qaeda members and sympathizers. Now it is acquiring an American channel.

More from Stelter. Since his story posted, he has added on Twitter that he's hearing a sales price of $500 million for Current, and that the deal includes Current's contracts to be carried by DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Verizon and AT&T. Time Warner Cable put out the word that it's deal with Current has terminated, according to Stelter: "We are removing the service as quickly as possible." It's unknown yet how this affects the Al Jazeera bureau in Los Angeles.

* Update: Al Jazeera has posted a release. The existing bureaus, including LA, will be joined by additional bureaus in the United States.

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