Al Jazeera increases its presence in US

Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera, which has struggled to gain a foothold in the US cable market has bought Current TV, the left-leaning political channel owned by former US vice-president Al Gore.

Al Jazeera’s international English language channel can currently only be viewed in a few large US metropolitan areas such as New York and Washington DC, where 4.7 million homes have access to the network. The new move will give Al Jazeera greater reach boosting its penetration to around 40 million households, 40 percent of the total number with cable or satellite services.

Current TV will close to make way for a new network, Al Jazeera America, which will add five new US bureaus beyond the five it already has, as well as add a host of new journalists to its workforce. The new channel will provide national and international news for its US audience.

However, it won’t be all plane sailing for Al Jazeera, which has faced hurdles with US distributers and viewers in the past. Distributor Time Warner Cable, which would have accounted for 12 million homes, has already revealed that it will be terminating its carriage deal with Current following Al Jazeera’s purchase.

Back in 2010 the network’s managing director, Tony Burman, blamed overly aggressive hostility from the Bush administration for reluctance among cable and satellite companies to show the network.

Gore deflected criticism from many quarters about selling Current TV to an Arab buyer, saying: “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.”

Founded in 2005, Current TV is expected to post $114 million in revenue in 2013, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

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