Thursday, January 03, 2013

Al-Jazeera Buys Current TV From Al Gore

Gore netted $100 million with his 20 percent stake in the network when it was sold for a reported $500 million on Wednesday. Critics were surprised by Mr. Gore's decision, one of the best-known proponents for global warming mitigation, to sell to a Middle Eastern Qatari royal family monarchy built with oil wealth. Mr. Gore will have an unpaid seat on the board of the new Al Jazeera channel.

Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the news network. Fomer vice president and Current TV co-founder Al Gore confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shared Current TV's mission:

"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."
The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera's reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al Jazeera English. Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a new channel called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists.

Previous to Al-Jazeera's purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes. It is carried by Comcast Corp., which owned less than a 10% stake in Current TV, as well as DirecTV. Neither company announced plans to drop the channel.

Current began as a groundbreaking effort to promote user-generated content. But it settled into a more conventional format of political talk television with a liberal bent. Gore worked on-air as an analyst during its recent Election Night coverage.

Current TV, founded in 2005 by former vice president Gore and Joel Hyatt, is expected to post $114 million in revenue in 2013. The firm pegged the network's cash flow at nearly $24 million a year.

Mr. a co-founder of Generation Investment Management, an investment partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, an adviser to Google and a board member at Apple. He also is the chairman of a nonprofit called the Climate Reality Project.(USA Today, Associated Press, 1/3/2012, NYT, 1/4/2012))

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