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Qatari State-Owned Al Jazeera to Get 'Larger US Footprint'

Al Jazeera has purchased U.S. cable news network Current TV, and plans to turn it into Al Jazeera America, reaching over 40 million homes
By David Lev
First Publish: 1/3/2013, 2:30 PM

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The Arab satellite broadcaster is set to purchase American news network Current TV from its current owner, former Vice President Al Gore. With the purchase, Al Jazeera will have the opportunity to significantly expand its reach in the U.S., with a potential audience of as many as 40 million households.

Al Jazeera announced Thursday that it would shutter Current TV, and replace it with a brand new network called Al Jazeera America, which would broadcast content specifically developed for U.S. audiences. Al Jazeera already has an English language satellite service that broadcasts around the world, including in some U.S. cities.

Current has been on the air since 2005, and was started by Gore in 2004, several years after losing the 2000 Presidential elections, which the former Vice-President in the administration of President Bill Clinton lost to George W. Bush. Gore started the network as a “progressive” alternative to other news networks, Gore said at the time.

Terms of the deal for Current were not immediately disclosed, but Forbes reported that the deal could be worth as much as $400 million.

In a press release, Al Jazeera Director General Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said, "By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America,"..."We look forward to working together with our new cable and satellite partners to serve our new audiences across the U.S."

However, the anti-Israel Al Jazeera – which is owned by the government of Qatar – may have to wait a bit longer than it expects to build those new audiences. After the deal was announced late Wednesday, Time Warner Cable said that it was dumping Current TV, and would not do business with it as Al Jazeera America. “Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible," Time Warner, the second largest cable company in the U.S., said in a statement. Sources in the industry said that Time Warner had been planning not to renew its currently expiring contract with Current because of low ratings.