UPDATE, 4 PM: Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt just confirmed the sale in a memo to staffers. “Getting this transaction done was very difficult,” he writes. (Read the network’s official statement after the original break of the story.) Since Time Warner Cable would not consent to the sale “Current will no longer be carried on TWC. This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.” Time Warner Cable says that it is “removing the service as quickly as possible.” The loss of the No. 2 cable operator will hurt: Time Warner Cable has 12.2M video subscribers and Current reaches about 59M homes. Others also could follow Time Warner Cable’s lead as they look to prune their often bloated channel lineups. Al Jazeera has fought an uphill battle to win carriage on U.S. cable systems. Operators say it’s too expensive, and that there’s too little interest in the subjects it covers. Fans of the channel say it’s due to unreasonable fears that Al Jazeera’s content will be too controversial and possibly propagandistic. Al Jazeera fought back, and further infuriated cable execs, by live-streaming its English-language programming.
Hyatt didn’t disclose financial terms but says that “Al Jazeera is planning to invest significantly in building ‘Al Jazeera America,’ a network focused on international news for the American audience.” Hyatt and co-founder Al Gore “will both serve on the Advisory Board of Al Jazeera America, and we look forward to helping build an important news network.” Hyatt notes that Al Jazeera “does not have a management team in place in the U.S to run this new venture.” But he and Gore picked the Qatar-based service among “several suitors who were interested in acquiring Current” because the news operation shares its goals “To give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the important stories that no one else is telling.”
PREVIOUS, 2:29 PM: Current TV said in the fall that it was considering putting itself up for sale, and now comes word that the cable channel founded by former Vice President Al Gore may have found a buyer. Al Jazeera is finalizing a deal to acquire Current TV, The New York Times reports, bringing the Pan-Arab news giant in closer competition with CNN and other U.S. news networks. The Times, citing people with knowledge of the deal negotiations, says Al Jazeera would create a new channel based in New York, rather that simply use Current to distribute its English-language channel, Al Jazeera English. There was no immediate word about the sale price. Current makes an attractive target because it’s available in about 60 million homes in the U.S. and 70 million worldwide, according to its website. In addition to Gore and company CEO Joel Hyatt, its owners include Comcast, DirecTV and venture capital firms.
“We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV,” said Al Gore, co-founder and Chairman, and Joel Hyatt, co-founder and CEO. “Since its founding in 2005, Current has grown into a national network available in nearly 60 million homes, offering thought-provoking commentary and Emmy and Peabody award-winning programming. 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. Al Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us.”