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Ear to the Ground

Al-Jazeera Buys Current TV, Plans to Kill It

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Posted on Jan 2, 2013

The Qatar-backed media network will phase out programming on the left-leaning, Al Gore-owned Current to make room for a new channel targeting American viewers.

It’s pretty clear from the details of the deal that Al-Jazeera wasn’t so much interested in Current as Current’s access to 50 million American households. The network, which once found a nemesis in the George W. Bush administration, has found it difficult to penetrate the American market. Time Warner Cable announced that it is dropping Current, which is reported to receive low ratings compared with other news networks such as MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, from 10 million households (leaving 50 million with access to the network).

Al-Jazeera says the U.S. network will be based in New York, and the broadcaster plans to expand its bureaus in the United States, doubling its U.S.-based staff to at least 300.

Current attempted to take on MSNBC when it hired that network’s ex-star, Keith Olbermann, but the Al Gore property, which doesn’t have an HD channel, could not deliver the viewers and ultimately suffered a high-profile falling out with Olbermann.

Al-Jazeera may have paid as much as $500 million for Current—or Current’s distribution network, rather.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer. Follow him on Twitter: @peesch.

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