TheBlaze’s Jason Howerton and Billy Hallowell contributed to this report.
Seeking to expand its presence in American television, al-Jazeera, the Qatar-owned news network, has agreed to buy Al Gore’s low-rated Current TV, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but a person familiar with the matter said al-Jazeera paid a few hundred million dollars for Current TV. The network, which was co-founded by Mr. Gore and entrepreneur Joel Hyatt in 2005, has recently been struggling with low ratings.
The multimillion dollar deal came after Current rebuffed TheBlaze when it approached the network about buying the channel last year. According to a source close to the negotiations, officials at TheBlaze were told that “the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view.”
An executive for TheBlaze confirmed these details on Thursday, noting that the decision not to sell to Beck’s network came only hours after executives reached out to a Current representative to discuss the matter. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Hyatt said that the decision to go with the Middle Easter outlet came, in part, because, “al-Jazeera was founded with the same goals we had for Current.”
This admission on the part of Current clearly shows that the network aligns itself with al-Jazeera — at least when it comes to goals and aspirations — something critics will likely question. As the AP noted, Dave Marash, a former “Nightline” reporter who worked for the network for a time, left in 2008 after sensing an anti-American bias.
A source close to negotiations also told The New York Times that the deal was probably worth around $500 million, meaning a $100 million pay-day for Gore, who was reportedly eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31 in order to avoid higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1.
Unfortunately for Gore, the deal wasn’t signed until Wednesday, however.
WSJ has more details:
Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the government of Qatar, became famous in the U.S. about a decade ago when its Arabic-language outlet aired videos of Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then the English-language version of the channel, which is available online in the U.S. and on TV in a few cities, has gained plaudits for its international coverage.
The purchase of Current TV could give al-Jazeera national cable distribution in the U.S., something it has been seeking for years. But al-Jazeera doesn’t plan to replace Current TV with its English-language channel. Instead it will create a new channel, al-Jazeera America, and will “invest significantly” in new programming, Mr. Hyatt wrote in a note to Current TV staff announcing the deal. The channel will be based in New York and expand al-Jazeera’s U.S. staff to more than 300, the company said in an announcement.
Not all cable operators are on board with the change. Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-largest cable operator, said late Wednesday it was dropping Current TV. The network’s owners acknowledged the deal was the reason.
News of the pending deal was first reported by The New York Times. Executives from al-Jazeera and Current did not immediately comment to the New York Times.
Current’s programming line-up includes Eliot Spitzer, Jennifer Granholm and Joy Behar. Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was fired from the channel in March after less than a year.
This story has been updated.